Crazy About Crazy For You

18-Aug-09 1:19 PM by
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I've previously written about the regularity of community theater performers and how entertaining it is to see familiar faces in new venues. It's far easier for me to recognize local actors than Broadway ones, despite the latter's fame; I don't know about you, but I have neither the time nor budget to patronize Broadway performers with any frequency. But there are professional theaters nationwide that offer quality productions and actors, and I've been glad to be able to partake of several shows starring one dynamic duo.

Colin Pritchard and Emily Thompson (now <a href=Emily Afton) as Bobby Childs and Polly Baker" title="Crazy For You #1" width="150" height="150" class="size-thumbnail wp-image-491" align="right" />Crazy For You is a 1992 update of the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy. In the desert town of Dead Rock, Polly Baker is the proprietor of a has-been theater that's about to be repossessed by the bank. Bobby Childs is the New York bank owner's henpecked son, sent to Dead Rock to close the deal. When Bobby's background comes between his and Polly's budding romance, can his devious plan win back both the theater and the girl?

It's a lighthearted and funny story that the Mac-Haydn Theatre of upstate New York has smartly headlined with Colin Pritchard and Emily Thompson as Bobby and Polly. These two alumni of the theater's 2007 season, where they played Singin' in the Rain's Cosmo Brown and Lina Lamont, have been reunited for this one show. Each brings a natural enthusiasm for the stage and each other. Mr. Pritchard is as ebullient as ever, sweating as he performs his usual madcap antics involving a variety of props, costumes, and spontaneous dances. Ms. Thompson has a magnificent voice that, after being submerged in her previous performance as Lina Lamont, is finally unleashed to marvelous effect. With each star complementing the other's strengths, they are so obviously happy together.

Ben Jacoby, Colin Pritchard, and Emily Thompson as Bela Zangler, Bobby Childs, and Polly BakerCrazy For You is clever enough to give the rest of the performers their moments in the spotlight, resulting in a well-rounded cast of characters. Joe Bettles' Lank Hawkins is an excellent foil for his more quick-witted company, resulting in some memorable one-liners. Ben Jacoby is the eccentric diva of a director who is humbled when he realizes his infatuation for Tess (Tara Tagliaferro) has become a potential love lost. And assistant director Karla Shook doubles as the irate Irene Roth, a shrew of a fiancee who is not so manipulative as to be unlikeable.

But the scenes that have the audience holding its breath are the ones that employ the entire company. When you first see the Mac-Haydn's performance space, you might think it a constraint for being so small — but director and choreographer Tralen Doler sees it as an opportunity. Every cowboy and showgirl that can squeeze into Dead Rock collaborates for show-stopping numbers, especially at the end of each act. Environmental props, from lassos to pickaxes, are expertly handled to maneuver the stage and the dancers into unique configurations and routines. All the numbers, be they group or solo, are sung with the right amount of joy, as in "I Got Rhythm" and "Slap That Bass", or longing, as in "Embraceable You" and "Someone to Watch Over Me".

Emily Thompson and Bobby Childs as Polly Baker and Bobby ChildsA note about the Mac-Haydn: the audience is seated around three-quarters of the round stage, and though the actors do their best to play to each audience member, the most consistent view is found in the seats along the aisle between sections 3 and 4.

The Mac-Haydn has never let me down, nor has the duo of Ms. Thompson and Mr. Pritchard; after seeing them be underutilized in the chorus of this spring's production of 42nd Street, it's a pleasure to have them back where they belong, center stage. As I had the opportunity to tell Mr. Pritchard after the show: "I can't see you two together and not give you a standing ovation." There are theatrical performances edgier or more daring than Crazy For You, but few will make you feel as happy on a Saturday night. Who could ask for anything more? If you can, catch this show in its remaining weekend, or its leading lady starring in her next show, opening in September. (Mr. Pritchard's next show is TBD)

[All images courtesy Mac-Haydn Theatre.]