2012 has been a remarkably good year for Theatre Three, as well as for director Michael Serrecchia, who's done great work at several theaters. Too bad they both ended the year with Crazy for You.
The show is Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent's concept to put the music and lyrics of George and Ira Gershwin into an original book, one that mimics a classic melodrama plot (and taken from the Gershwins 1930 musical Girl Crazy). Basically, it's the ol' "let's put on a show and save the struggling business" bit, which is about the same as saving the girl from the railroad tracks and coming up with the rent before the mustache-swirling bad guy forecloses.
Which is to say, it should be fun, especially with scads of tap dancing, showgirls and cornball jokes. Except that at T3, none of that comes together in a manner that would sell it as anything other than strung-together cheese.
Bobby Child (Sam Beasley) is a tap-dancing whiz who can't break into a Broadway show of Bela Zangler (Brian Hathaway), a Ziegfeld-type impresario. So he learns of a gig in the town of Deadrock, Nevada, and travels there by train and foot. The showgirls follow. He soon falls for straight-shooting Polly Baker (Emily Lockhart), and when word gets out that the town's theater is going to close, Sam promised to get Zangler in to save it. Knowing he can't manage that, he disguises himself as Zangler. Meanwhile, the real showbiz magnate gets word and travels West to do the saving himself.
So we have mistaken identities, love triangles, bar fights and an out-of-nowhere subplot (the arrival of travel writers Eugene and Patricia Fodor, played by Joseph Holt and Kathryn Taylor Rose). And did I mention tap dancing?
All of which is right out of the that golden era of musical comedy in which froth and timing and talent melded together magically. It's one reason that the Gershwins' music keeps being put together in shows like this, such as in Broadway's current Nice Work If You Can Get It. The other being, of course, that those songs are so glorious.
With a few exceptions, this cast isn't ready for its close-up. Beasley has the smiling good looks and, gee, can that boy hoof it. But a strong singer he's not, and he falls short on charisma when he's not dancing. He also has no chemistry with Lockhart, who, acting-wise, is one of the show's saving graces. She might have been under the weather on opening night, though, as a few songs, including the seminal "Someone to Watch Over Me," had some sour notes.
There are a few moments of bliss, though, such as the second act number "What Causes That," in which Hathaway and Beasley, both dressed as Zangler, do a fine drunken mirror routine with each other. Other bright spots occur anytime Terry McCracken, playing Bobby's wealthy mother, is onstage.
Theatre Three's intimate in-the-round space works fine for many things, but dance musicals is not one of them. At opening, tapping from the ensemble was good, but not perfect. And in tap, nothing less than perfect will do. It didn't help if, like me, you had just seen Casa Mañana's excellent production of 42nd Street with top-notch tapping by the soloists and ensemble, and featuring North Texas' best young tap dancing musical theater threat, Jeremy Dumont. (The choreography for Crazy is by Serrecchia and Megan Kelly Bates.)
Musical director Vonda Bowling leads a band of four other musicians, all hidden by sound-muting backdrops that are appropriately painted to look like they came out of a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
Sadly, ACME doesn't make a kit that would improve this production.