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Too Crazy by Half

Marty Sohl

Stepping Out: Larry Luscher, Sandra Winslow, Camille B. Aagard and Brijet Henderson go all out for Gershwin in "Crazy for You."

Implausible plot twists vie with timeless Gershwin tunes in American Musical Theatre's 'Crazy for You'

By Anne Gelhaus

PLAYWRIGHT KEN LUDWIG reportedly decided to rewrite the book for George and Ira Gershwin's Girl Crazy because the original was too thin. If that's true, then the story line must have been see-through to begin with, because the resulting Crazy for You has a plot that's about as substantial as typing paper. Even by musical comedy standards, Ludwig's 1992 reworking of the Gershwins' 1930 show lacks credibility, though the American Musical Theatre of San Jose tries mightily to gloss over the more improbable moments in its current production. Ludwig has added so many instances of mistaken identity and misconstrued intentions to this tale of "boy meets, loses and wins back girl" that the characters all end up looking like clueless morons by the time everything's resolved.

Thankfully, there's a lot of good music to fall back on when the going gets implausible. Crazy for You is full of classic Gershwin tunes, many of them sung by Cathy Wydner as Polly, the girl in "boy meets girl." Wydner manages to lend the proper poignancy to "Someone to Watch Over Me" while maintaining her character's Annie Oakley-esque persona, and her duet with B.K. Kennelly as Polly's would-be boyfriend Bobby on "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is winsome enough to excuse the weak reason they burst into song.

The pair launches into the famous number when they decide to part company. The planned separation takes place after Bobby, a New York city banker who initially comes to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on Polly's theater, has instead made a failed attempt to save it by putting on a show that closes in one night. Bobby's efforts attract the attention of Bela Zangler (Laurent Giroux as a wannabe Florenz Ziegfeld), who offers to back a "revival" of the show. In a truly lame scene, the townspeople dismiss Zangler's offer as being too much work. This refusal leads to Bobby's completely unnecessary return to New York City, which gives Kennelly an excuse to launch into yet another dance number. The man is talented, but after he trips the light fantastically on "Kr-a-zy for You," sweeps Polly off her feet in "Things Are Looking Up" and leads the company through director Tony Parise's rousing choreography for "I Got Rhythm," his fancy footwork on "Nice Work If You Can Get It" seems gratuitous.

In general, Parise displays a tendency to want to make every number a show-stopper, and although the company maintains a high energy level, it is sometimes not up to the task at hand. On opening night, there were several performance gaffes involving intricate ensemble work and/or tricky bits of business. These mistakes could be corrected during the show's run, but it would be just as easy--and more entertaining--to cut the bits that precipitated them.

Crazy for You plays Tuesday-Thursday at 8pm, Friday at 8:30 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8:30pm and Sunday at 2 and 7pm through May 26 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $28-$43. (BASS)

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From the May 16-22, 1996 issue of Metro

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