Review: 'Crazy for You' at Theatre Calgary

Vicki Trask

  • OnStage Calgary Critic

I grew up in the swing era. At least my dance upbringing taught me to love jazz, swing, tap, and epic musical numbers. Whenever a local company pulls out a classic musical or a touring company rolls into town with 45 pairs of sparkly tap shoes, I am sitting front row centre to get a peek at the world I’ve always loved. I love the glitz and glamour of sequined leotards and three-inch t-straps. The bright lights, full orchestra and singing at full volume while dancing your heart out for 10 minutes straight. It keeps me breathless and on the edge of my seat for two and a half hours like nothing else.

That pure joy had me grinning from ear to ear at Theatre Calgary’s preview performance of “Crazy For You” in the Max Bell Theatre. This “New Gershwin Musical” by Ken Ludwig takes all the old favourites and ties them together in this 1992 musical about a Broadway dreamer who finds romance, danger, and drama in a small Nevada town.

Directed and choreographed by Dayna Tekatch, with music direction by Don Horsburgh, “Crazy For You” is my new must-see recommendation. I am star-struck.

Cory Sincennes’ set and costume designs were, in a word: perfection. I saw function, seamless storytelling, and big flashing lights all rolled into one. And those costumes; simply mesmerizing. Every time Polly walked out, I fell a little more in love until the finale where I swooned over the elegance. On the opposite end of gorgeous Ginger Rogers gowns, we have the gritty fight direction by Jonathan Purvis. I thought the entire design involved such a clever use of the actors and the stage. It felt fearless but I never worried for the people on or off the stage.

The entire cast was fantastic; beginning with our leading man Bobby Child, played by Andrew Macdonald-Smith, who gave a phenomenal performance. I watched him sink more into his character as the show progressed and I found it fascinating. By the end, I was dancing in my seat, watching his every move. He had such great command of his body – particularly for the use of comedy. I absolutely loved it.

Our leading lady, Ayrin Mackie, was breathtaking as the down to earth Polly Baker. Ayrin, if I could shake your hand right now, I would. She was positively stunning. Her stamina, her characterizations, her voice, her dancing, her stamina (yes, I’m saying it twice). From the moment she entered the stage, I was astounded by her talent. Can I go back and watch her again?

Our charming secondary lovers, Irene Roth and Lank Hawkins, were perfect for each other. Rachel Bowron, playing the diva who takes no prisoners and holds nothing back, was fantastic. Her dancing was on point, her voice had that commanding, sultry tone. I think she could have gone even further with such a bitchy, controlling character. Of course I love a goofy villain so Jesse Gervais had me in stitches. Think of a less gruff Old West Biff Tanner. His physicality was probably my favourite on that stage, but sometimes, I didn’t have time to catch his joke or quirky mannerism before he ran offstage. I wanted him to slow down or enunciate just a little bit more.

I feel so conflicted when it comes to John Ullyatt’s performance as the famously dramatic but fabulous director of the Follies Bela Zangler. I enjoyed all of his scenes but I felt a sort of disconnect between the two acts for this character – as though he suddenly became a cartoon version of his former self. This is already a rather eccentric character but it felt out of place to see two different interpretations of that word. I liked both versions, I just wanted more consistency.

The rest of the cast is split between the New York Girls and the Country Boys. Both parties stole my attention but my heart will always lie with the Follie dancers. All of the women were fantastic; in particular Patsy, played by Kelsey Lacombe, drew my attention with her squeaky voice and adorable attitude. But seriously, all of those dancers blew me away. They were in sync, mostly gave good face, and maintained that charming attitude throughout the entire show. Amongst the cowboys there was a trio of singers who liked to pop up and croon away our troubles. They were so lovely to listen to – and watch. Each of the boys had a distinct character that I could follow throughout the show but when they came together, they made magic.

I loved it. I didn’t sit in the audience and gush about every single thing that I saw. But that’s why I loved it. The overall picture that the cast and crew painted was extraordinary. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. If you love old musicals with contemporary mastery, you must see “Crazy For You”. I will be singing those songs and dancing around for weeks to come. No matter what, they can’t take that away from me.