Review: Crazy for You (Drury Lane Theatre)

| November 12, 2016

Erica Stephan stars as Irene Roth in Crazy for You, Drury Lane Theatre           

Crazy For You

By George Gershwin (music),
  Ira Gershwin (lyrics), Ken Ludwig (book)
Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tix: $48-$58  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Huge heart, killer dancing make for ‘Crazy’ good holiday fun


Crazy for You at Drury Lane Theatre, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin

Drury Lane Theatre presents
Crazy for You

Review by Catey Sullivan

Deep in the second half of Crazy for You, the brothers Gershwin unleash a ditty titled “Stiff Upper Lip.” If there is a balm to be found in Gilead in the wake of the tumultuous election, it’s in George Gershwin’s bouncing music and Ira Gershwin’s indomitable lyrics. If you’re feeling down or defeated, the clouds will lift a bit before the song hits the bridge. Opening night, the casts’ exhortation to “carry on old fluff” felt like a direct response to the week’s events. Leave it to the Gershwins to speak to us from beyond the grave: Sober or blotto, make this your motto: “If you’re in a stew/keep carrying Robyn Hurder and Clyde Alves star as Polly Baker  and Bobby Child in Crazy for You 2through.” Words to the wise Indeed.

Directed and choreographed by Matt Crowle, the charms of Crazy for You aren’t limited to a single song. The entire show is a hoot. It doesn’t matter that plot is a piffle and the characters as substantial as tissue. Crazy for You has huge heart, killer dancing, and a cast that is ridiculously hilarious in all the right ways.

Crowle brought in a team of husband-and-wife Canadians for his leads. Clyde Alves plays Bobby Child, an unhappy New York City banker who just wants to dance. He gets his chance when he is sent to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a theater long past its glory days. Amid tumbleweeds and whiskey shots and gunfights, he meets sassy local postmaster Polly Baker, played by Robyn Hurder. Alves and Hurder have a chemistry that calls to mind the iconic banter of Hepburn and Tracy and a grace that evokes Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Alves is impossibly limber, making knee-to-nose kicks and triple pirouettes look as easy as sitting down. Watch for the bit where he does the splits as he drunkenly navigates a saloon stairway – it’ll make your jaw drop. Ditto his finesse on tap. You’ll swear there are sparks flying from his feet when he dances through “Can’t Be Bothered Now.” Hurder Is every bit as wonderful. She brings a yearning heartache to the belt of “But Not for Me,” and is positively incandescent in in the ballet-like elegance of “Embraceable You.”

Book writer Ken Ludwig’s plot is basically an excuse to bring on a roster of Gershwin hits. The story is a blatant riff on the old “let’s-put-on-a-show” template of a thousand Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies. (Rooney even gets a tip-of-the-hat from one of the characters). Bobby and the Deadrock townsfolk decide to save the theater from foreclosure by, yes, putting on a show. Their endeavor is aided by the arrival of a chorus-line of Follies girls, followed by the great Broadway impresario, Bela Zangler (Larry Adams). Comic hijinks ensue.

So does one showstopping number after another. Crowle also choreographed the piece, and his work is a marvel. “K-K-Krazy for You” is a dazzling opener that sets the tone for the entire show.The human basses of “Slap that Bass” remain a justified crowd favorite. “I Got Rhythm” is spectacularly rambunctious and equally beautiful.

Erica Stephan and Rod Thomas star as Irene Roth and Lank Hawkins in Crazy for You Robyn Hurder and Clyde Alves star as Polly Baker  and Bobby Child in Crazy for YouRobyn Hurder stars as Polly Baker in Crazy For You, Drury Lane Theatre

Throughout, the cast nails the comic timing that can make this show so treacherous to pull off. Crowle delivers countless touches that up the laugh factor: When the cowpokes introduce the audience to Deadrock, it’s with the deadpan, drawling, laconic tone you’d expect from a town where pushing a wheelbarrow from one side of the road to the other is big excitement.

Within this town of “singing cadavers” there are more than a few memorable cowpokes. Rod Thomas plays Lank, proprietor of the local saloon. There’s nothing Thomas does on stage that isn’t funny. At some point over the last decade, he’s become both a peerless comedic actor as well as a traditionally tall/dark/handsome leading man. It’s a truly remarkable range. As Lank, Thomas gives us a fellow who fancies himself as Billy the Kidd but is actually more Barney Fife. His “Naughty Baby” duet with Erica Stephan’s siren-slinky and gloriously aggressive Irene is a darn-near perfect merger of sex and comedy.

Also memorable and endearing is Adams’ Bela Zangler. His drunken duet with Alves is one of the toughest scenes to carry in the entire show. Both Bela and Bobby are skunk-drunk. Bobby is disguised as Bela. In their addled state, both characters think they’re either seeing double or going crazy.

The mostly wordless scene calls for them to mirror each other, each becoming more and more astonished as the scene goes on. Trust: There is nothing more laborious in the land of musical theater than a crazy-over-the-top silent comedic scene depicted by actors who can’t bring the humor. Adams and Alves bring it and then some. Seriously, they should upload it to YouTube or something, and file it under “Watch This When You Feel Like You Are Doomed.”

Erica Stephan, Crazy for You, Drury Lane Theatre Robyn Hurder, Crazy For You, Drury Lane Theatre Oak BrookClyde Alves, Robyn Hurder, and ensemble in Crazy For You, Drury Lane Theatre

When they aren’t clocking tumbleweeds, the menfolk of Deadrock practice shooting each other, something that gives Alexander Aguilar one of The. Best. “Death.” Scenes. Ever. That bit also needs to be made widely available on social media.

The supporting roles also feature Mark David Kaplan and Holly Stauder as a pair of cheery Brits with a husband-and-wife shorthand that’s hysterical. The irreplaceable Janet Ulrich Brooks is fittingly gorgon-like as the fur-draped, big-city bank CEO determined to bring her dancing son to heel.

Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s continually surprising set will transport you to the old west, complete with saloon doors, rickety balconies, and a cavernous theater that still holds romance despite its years in decline. Caitlin McLeod’s costumes show off the talented cast’s amazing dance numbers and take the audience from the razzle-dazzle of backstage Broadway to the dusty streets of Deadrock. Heather Gilbert’s lighting design is also indispensable to the story as it moves from city to country and back again.

If you can’t actually go to Canada or Nevada, make Drury Lane’s Deadrock your destination this season.

Rating: ★★★★

Crazy for You continues through January 8th at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbroook Terrace (map), with performances Wednesdays at 1:30pm, Thursdays 1:30pm & 8pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 5pm & 8:30pm, Sundays 2pm & 6pm.  Tickets are $48-$58, and are available by phone (847-745-3000) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes an intermission)

Robyn Hurder, Crazy for You, Drury Lane Theatre

Photos by Brett Beiner 




Clyde Alves (Bobby), Robyn Hurder (Polly Baker), Larry Adams (Bela Zangler), Mark David Kaplan (Eugene Fodor), Roger Mueller (Everett Baker), Holly Stauder (Patricia Fordor, u/s Lottie Child), Erica Stephan (Irene Roth), Rod Thomas (Lank Hawkins), Janet Ulrich Brooks (Lottie Child), Alexander Aguilar (Billy), William Carlos Angulo (Sam, u/s Billy, Junior), Justin Brill (Mingo, u/s Moose), Joe Capstick (Custus, u/s Moose, Mingo), Courtney Cerny (swing, u/s Patricia, Patsy), Harter Clingman (Moose, u/s Bela), Erica Evans (Tess, u/s Irene), Ashley Lanyon (Mitzi, u/s Tess), Ryan Naimy (swing, u/s Jimmy, Chauffer, Wyatt, Perkins), Hanah Rose Nardone (ensemble, u/s Mitzi), Anthony Norman (Jimmy, Chauffer, u/s Sam), Doug Pawlik (Wyatt, Perkins, u/s Lank), Laura Savage (Patsy, u/s Polly), Aaron Umsted (Junior, u/s Bobby), Julie Baird, Rachel Hafell, Kristina Larson, Lucy Zukaitis (ensemble).

behind the scenes

Matt Crowle (director), Jeffrey D. Kmiec (set design), Caitlin McLeod (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Adrian Aguilar (associate director, fight choreographer), Alexander Aguilar (fight captain), William Carlos Angulo (dance captain), Courtney Cerny (associate choreographer), Larry Baker (production stage manager), Roberta Duchak (music director), Claire Moores (wig, hair design), Shawn Stengel (conductor), Elise Hausken (asst. stage manager), William Osetek (artistic director), Juli Walker (production manager), Matthew D. Carney (casting associate, company manager), Eleanor Axt (casting associate, production assistant), Evan Sposato (technical director), Cassy Schillo (props design supervisor, warehouse manager), Hannah K. Davis (costume shop manager), Carey Deadman (music contractor), Kyle Desantis, Drew Desantis, Jason Van Lente, Abigail Desantis (producers), Jim Jensen (special projects manager), Brett Beiner (photographer).


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Category: 2016 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Drury Lane Oakbrook, George Gershwin, Musical, Video, YouTube

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