Crazy for You, the Festival Players’ 2003 show, not only marked the company’s thirtieth anniversary, but was also their fiftieth production, with founder member Brian ‘Tommy’ Thomas once again taking a double role as both director and musical director. It received rave reviews, with Combinations describing it as “another large feather in Festival Players’ hat, a wonderful fun evening”
Musical Director Brian Thomas
Choreographer Antonia Grantham
Lighting Design David McRobb
Sets Albemarle of London
Costume Design Margaret Thorp
Bobby Childs – Dave Smithet
Polly Baker – Claire Crofts
Bela Zangler – Michael Husband
Lank Hawkins – Keith Reville
Irene Roth – Keena McKillen
Everett Baker – Kevin O’Meara
Tess – Lea Chambers
Mother – Pippa Taylor
Eugene Fodor – John Hill
Patricia Fodor – Jan Croft
Cowboy Trio – Matt Gregory (Sam), Simon Merrington (Moose) and Bob Crofts (Mingo)
Follies Girls – Sara Grimshaw (not shown), Catriona Nicol, Vicki Gregory, Lynn Crussell, Sonia Cummings (Patsy), Margaret Curran, Lea Chambers (Tess), Suzanne Emerson
The Cowboys – Alan Hay, Matt Gregory, Bob Croft, Tim Evans, Doug Fernie, Roger Wood, Ray Gambell, Richard Fereday, Simon Merrington, Len Packman
The Supporting Ladies – Angela Carr, Roslyn Stockley, Linda Thomas, Jane Randall, Pippa Taylor, Alison Arnold
Cast and crew photos
Combinations (Julie Petrucci)
After last year’s offering of OKLAHOMA! my feelings about other Festival Player’s’ productions was “follow that”. Well, follow that they certainly did, fulfilling their publicity promise of an “all singing, all dancing all Gershwin” show.
“Tommy” Thomas as both director and musical director brought his usual expertise to the music: the band more than met the usual high Festival Player’s standard. However, his imaginative comic touches and attention to detail as a director brought an extra-special touch to this excellent production.
Crazy for You is invariably described as a “rehashed version” of Girl Crazy, but I prefer the programme note description of a “repackaged musical”. The story is of Bobby Child, the son of a rich New York banking family who wants to go on stage. His attempts to audition for famous Broadway producer Bela Zangler end in failure and he is sent by his mother to Deadrock, a one-horse town (or in this case a one-woman town) in Nevada to foreclose on the mortgage of a small theatre. Bobby falls in love with the only woman in town, Polly Baker and, in true Mickey Rooney style, decides to ‘put on a show’ to save the theatre. Polly and the townsfolk won’t take him seriously so his gets the girls from Zangler’s Broadway show to come to town and he poses as the distinctive Zangler to win Polly and the townsfolk over. Of course, not everything runs smoothly. The real Zangler turns up, Polly falls in love with the false Zangler but thinks she loves the real one etc. etc. Inevitably all ends happily.
Rehearsals for the ‘show’ gave the large cast plenty of opportunity to display their multifarious talents. The Cowboy Trio of Simon Merrington, Bob Croft and Matt Gregory were impressive with both their vocal and instrumental versatility and John Hill and Jan Croft were particularly amusing as the oh-so-English Fodor’s researching for a travel guide.
Good supporting performances from Pippa Taylor (Mother), Sonia Cumming (Patsy), Kevin O’Meara (Everett Baker), Michael Husband (Zangler), Keith Reville (Lank Hawkins) and Keena McKillen (Irene). Keena’s song Naughty Baby was splendid. This song would fall flat on its face if the singer didn’t absolutely go for it and go for it she certainly did. Another song which went down a storm and was cleverly done was the duet between the two Zanglers it was extremely funny.
Claire Crofts as Polly gave a feisty performance as befitted her character but she struggled somewhat with some of her songs, which was a shame. Dave Smithet as Bobby was faultless. This actor/singer goes from strength to strength and is always a pleasure to watch.
Without exception the whole cast put their all into this production and I wish I could name the entire cast. They were truly professional acting the whole time, no one standing around wondering what they had to do next. Choreographer Antonia Grantham always manages to provide interesting choreography but never overstretches the dancers or the chorus. Not since I saw the West End show 42nd Street have I longed so much to be able to tap dance.
The costumes were as superb as they were numerous and the lighting excellent, in fact all technical aspects of the show ran smoothly.
Crazy for You is another large feather in Festival Players’ hat, a wonderful fun evening and, as I said at the beginning of this review – follow that!
Cambridge Evening News 11 June 2003
Players putting on the style (Nik Shelton)
After 30 years and 50 productions, Cambridge’s Festival Players know a thing or two about putting on a show. For this year’s miletone performance the players decided to put on Crazy for You, the paean to Gershwin-era glitzy stage shows. The musical features classics from George and Ira’s 1930’s production Girl Crazy, plus a few more thrown in for good measure, repackaged and unleashed on the theatre world to acclaim from traditional musical lovers in the 1990s. It features the story of hapless rich boy Bobby Child and his dream of performing in the theatre. His mother wants him to work in the family’s banking business but all he wants to do is sing and dance. He finds himself stranded in the dusty midwest town of Deadrock and promptly falls in love with the only female inhabitant. He hatches a crack-pot plan to put on a show in the town and win his beloved’s affection. It was the footapping jazz era accompaniment – provided with style by the players’ orchestra – which attracted a full house of predominantly silver-haired theatre-goers on the opening night, for whom it must have evoked welcome memories of the golden age of stage and screen. But to the uninitiated there was still plently to savour with well-timed gags, infectious ensemble numbers and an entertainingly farcical plot in this joyful amateur production whcih saw those on stage enjoying themselves as much as those in the stalls. Special mentions have to go to Brian Thomas – who brought the whole production together as well as leading the orchestra – and to the perfectly cast leading man Dave Smithet, who was a pleasure to watch.
Curtain Call, August 2003
I don’t normally comment on the venue when reviewing a production and I don’t intend to go on about one now, but, I will say that I was very disappointed with the Mumford Theatre’s attitude before the production, as well as their attitude afterwards. This is no reflection on the Festival Players – all events were out of their control, however, I shall be very reluctant to visit that particular Cambridge Theatre in the future. If you’re planning to visit this theatre, then be prepared for the parking problems!
Crazy for You is fairly popular with amateur groups and hence I have seen it before, however, this production was not a disappointment. Briefly it tells the story of Bobby Childs from a rich family in New York. Bobby does not want to enter the family business – he wants to be on the stage. He ends up being sent to Deadrock which only has one woman, who he promptly falls for whilst pretending to be Bela Zangler. This duality prompts a wonderful duet between Bobby and Zanger including a wonderful mirror acting scene which was superbly executed by Dave Smithet as Bobby and Michael Husband as Zangler.
This is not a show where I can mention every member of the cast, which is a pity as all were superb from the Cowboy trio of Simon Merrington, Bob Croft and Matt Gregory to Polly Baker (the one woman in question) played by Claire Crofts.
The acting, singing and dancing skills of everyone on the stage was excellent and the set very effective (although moving the set was a little noisy when acting was occurring front of tabs). The props were also good, including a very convincing ancient vacuum cleaner!
I was a little concerned about the microphones being used and wonder if there were technical problems at this particular show. There were several occasions when the music (which was excellent) drowned out the words of the singing. I was also unsure of the point of having such a bright light directed straight at the audience at the beginning of the show – I wasn’t the only audience member who found it uncomfortable.
All in all an excellent show, with all cast members working well together and entertaining the audience.
Jane Dickerson Shinn
Copyright Jane Dickerson Shinn. This article first appeared in the August 2003 edition of Curtain Call, the magazine for amateur theatre in East Anglia.