Crazy For You

Paper Mill Playhouse, NJ - April 1999

Review by John Kenrick

Stacey Logan and Jim WaltonStacey Logan and Jim Walton atop a heap of chairs in "Stiff Upper Lip."

Please note: I have received literally hundreds of emails regarding the PBS video of this production. It has never been commercially available, and I do not make illegal copies. It is up to PBS to either rebroadcast it or start selling it – please send all inquiries to them. Thanks!

About an hour's drive from New York, just a few miles South of Newark Airport, there's a little slice of musical theatre heaven called the Paper Mill Playhouse. A year-round series of lavishly staged musicals and plays plus a state of the art theatre have attracted the largest subscription sales of any company on the planet. Despite its popularity, Paper Mill was rarely noticed by the New York theatre community until a PBS telecast of Showboat and an acclaimed production of Follies received major attention. Much as I hate to cross the Hudson, the lure of a good musical is too much for me to resist, so I have joined the growing number of New York theatre goers who make periodic pilgrimages to Paper Mill.

Paper Mill's 1999 revival of Crazy For You was a faithful re-creation of the original Broadway production, with the original sets, costumes, choreography and even a few original cast members. Frankly, I adore Crazy For You. I saw it five times during its Broadway run and more than one tour, and would gladly see it 100 times more if it is as well done as this production. Here is the big, slightly silly but infinitely lovable kind of Broadway musical I fell in love with years ago – the kind of musical that quite simply is not seen on Broadway any more. Seeing it again was like seeing an old friend, one who is as lovely and funny as ever. I left the theatre feeling like I had just spent a week on vacation. That's what musicals used to do for me on a regular basis – what a pity it happens so rarely now.

Jim Brennan, the show's last lead on Broadway, supervised the staging, bringing back all the deft comic touches that made the original so memorable. Angelique Ilo, the show's Broadway dance captain, re-created Susan Strohman's acclaimed dances, which rate as some of the best stage choreography of the last decade. Broadway veteran Jim Walton plays the lead role of Bobby Childs on tour, and is clearly having a ball playing the role again here. He handles the extremely demanding physical comedy with aplomb, and his dance solo during "Nice Work If You Can Get It" is possibly the best I've seen yet. Stacey Logan, who was in C4U's original ensemble and understudied the role of Polly in New York, does a bang-up job in the role here. She sings "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "But Not For Me" to perfection, and made the comic take on "Embraceable You" a big audience favorite.

Bruce Adler was the original Bella Zangler and is still the best, making every line and bit of shtick extraordinarily funny. And dear Jane Connell – it's always a joy to see this hilarious lady. Nationwide audiences know her from various roles on Bewitched, but Broadway has long treasured her comic genius in Mame, Me and My Girl, Lend Me a Tenor and most recently Moon Over Buffalo. I am delighted to report that she is still a hoot as Bobby's quarrelsome mother, a role she originated and played for more than three years on Broadway.

The entire ensemble is excellent, but two standouts deserve special note. Jeb Brown is far too good looking to play Lank the saloon owner, but he made the most of the role's comic possibilities. The delicious Sandy Edgerton was one of the replacement Irene Roth's on Broadway, so it was no surprise to see her do a show-stopping job with "Naughty Baby."

It has been clear for sometime that you often have to go an hour east of New York City to see what the Broadway musical used to be like – three cheers to Paper Mill Playhouse for what its doing to keep the faith alive!

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