Friday, July 18, 2014

Crazy for You at the Stratford Festival

All photos from Stratford site
I've never had an easy answer to the "what is your favourite musical?" question.  However,  I think I'd probably say Crazy For You.  Scratch that, I know I'd say Crazy For You.  After seeing it again today (for the 3rd time and if time or ticket deals allow I'd go again without hesitation) I'm confident in that.  The music of Gershwin, a fantastic story with a happy ending, and high energy dancing, it doesn't get any better than that.  Each time I see it, there's something else I notice.  Maybe the cast is adding things or making small changes to keep it fresh for themselves, but if the moments really weren't there before it's wonderful since it keeps it fresh for the audience too.  Moments like Bella going to pour a drink and opening his hand to show there's no glass there, or the banter between Bobby and Polly in "I Got Rhythm" like the line "Show me what you got" as they have a mini dance off, are perfect.

Franklin in New York
Josh Franklin is wonderful as Bobby Child.  I first saw him as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes last summer in Toronto.  He's also played Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys (and got to perform a set from that show in A Capitol Fourth!).  There seems to be a trend with him playing characters who have names starting with 'B'.  Perhaps Bobby in Company is next on his to do list?

I first saw Crazy for You when it was in Toronto 20 years ago (oh my, was it really that long ago?).  That production I saw at least twice, maybe three times.  Camilla Scott starred as Polly Baker, and maybe I'm biased because she was the first I saw so I draw comparisons, but I think I preferred her to Natalie Daradich.  Natalie is good, has a great voice, and lovely dancing, I just have fond remembrances of Scott in the roll.

"Naughty Baby"
While I am comparing productions, there were a few things I missed in Stratford's.  "Stiff Upper Lip" had no pointe shoe tap dance section that I still remember clearly along with the climbing chairs stacked on the table.  The reference in the Stratford production to Les Mis by mentioning the stacked chairs looked like the French Revolution helped make up for it, but alas there was no climbing on them.  Lank (played by Shane Carty) and Irene's (played by Robin Hutton) "Naughty Baby" number didn't seem sleazy enough.  I know, it's a family show musical, but Irene in a satin nightgown helped add that element, in a somewhat subtle way, to the Toronto production.  Lank certainly got his distain for Irene across with his line delivery though.

The performance I think I had trouble buying into the most was Lally Cadeau as Mrs. Child.  I'm not sure why, maybe subconsciously to my mind she'll always be Janet King (sorry Ms. Cadeau), and so I didn't find it believable.

"I Got Rhythm"
The choreography was great!  Huge shout out to Donna Feore.  Her use of the stage was fantastic.  It was also fun to recognize some steps that were taught in my tap class this year.  "I Got Rhythm", the closing to Act I, didn't have the spoons, dancing on corrugated tin, or playing a saw like a violin from the Toronto production, but honestly I didn't miss it by the second viewing.  It's different, but there's SO MUCH going on and so many amazing dance feats showcasing the fantastic cast, what's not to like?

Overall the use of the stage was well done.  The sets were varied and easily gave the New York City and Deadrock Nevada feel.  The big white ball, appropriately lit as the sun or moon, was fun too.

Green tutus
Most of the costumes were also great.  The show girls in pink were perfect, exactly what I expected for "Nice Work if You Can Get It".  For a moment I was a bit worried when the opening had Bella Zanger's girls in these green, funky, flat, tutu things, but it got better.  Josh Franklin even pulls off Bella's pink suit with style.  Although he's handsome enough to pretty much look good in anything.

I had forgotten some of the dialogue and the wit that is interspersed throughout the show and found myself burst out laughing when Bobby takes a large step away from Lank when Lank says to him,  "You are close to an idiot" :)

The interaction between Franklin and Tom Rooney (who plays Bella) in "What Causes That" was absolutely hilarious.  The audience was in stitches.

The sound levels were also perfect.  For a while I thought the singers might be unamplified and had to look really hard to find the mics.  They are getting so small these days!  Franklin's was almost completely hidden in his side burn and most of the ladies I couldn't see at all. I assume they were hidden in or under their wigs.  The sound was always pure and never over powering.  Taps were amplified when needed (such as Bobby's dancing solos) but mostly just showed the dancers skill in having clean and precise sounds.  They made it look easy.

The cast recording is now available and I expect it's really good especially if they used or augmented the 20 or so musicians who were already in the pit.  Even 20 is a large number compared to what tours with a Broadway show these days, so it was super nice to hear the richness of the Gershwin score.  Unfortunately the orchestra was back to being hidden behind the stage unlike in 42nd Street a few seasons ago where they were visible on a balcony.

Finale - the happy ending!
I always use the speed at which the audience gets to their feet as a gauge of how much they enjoyed the performance.  Standing ovations were almost immediate.  It was also nice to see genuine looks of appreciation from the actors.  I hope they had as much fun doing the show as I have had watching it.

No comments:

Post a Comment