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Review: Crazy For You

A Gershwin musical we all need now

Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, London NW1

    They got rhythm: chorus girls twirl under the stars in Regent's Park’s Open Air Theatre superb production
    They got rhythm: chorus girls twirl under the stars in Regent's Park’s Open Air Theatre superb production

    On the opening night of this wonderful feel-good show, London was under siege by rioting mobs. Not that the audience, sitting in the Open Air's magical setting, was aware of it at the time.

    But in retrospect, knowing that as this musical's superbly delivered pleasures got underway - as the chorus girls twirled across the stage, and as the two romantic leads (New York's Bobby and Dead Rock's Polly delightfully played with innocence and sass by Sean Palmer and Clare Foster) shrugged off a rainy start and lit up the evening with an avalanche of Gershwin classics - knowing that during all this London burned, it is hard not to feel a little retrospective shame at the enjoyment felt while so much misery was being meted out elsewhere.

    But then, trivial as it may seem in this context, when you think that Crazy For You is based on George and Ira Gershwin's 1930s Depression-era morale booster, Girl Crazy, what better tonic for these times?

    Ken Ludwig's frothy story is about a banker who loves to dance and who falls head over his tapping heels for the girl whose theatre he is supposed to foreclose on but instead helps to save.

    But although it is the perfect piece of nonsense on which to graft the Gershwins' irresistible score, what counts just as much here is the creative team of director Tim Sheader and choreographer Stephen Mear, who once again prove that they are the most potent combination of musical talent currently at work in this country.

    Under their direction, the songs Slap That Bass and I Got Rhythm become ecstatic celebrations of dance, melody and, well, rhythm. They are moments of musical ecstasy and almost match the rapture achieved by Sheader's and Mear's production of Hello Dolly! of a couple of years ago. Shamefully, no producer took that show to the West End.

    This one is equally deserving. And the country probably needs it.

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