Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Crazy for You at Artistry

The cast and orchestra of Crazy for You
Photo by Sam Lavine
The production of Crazy for You at Artistry is a rare treat. There's only one weekend left, so hurry to get your tickets before it closes on February 11.

Crazy for You premiered on Broadway in 1992 as a "new" Gershwin musical. Creators Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent used the 1930 musical Girl Crazy as a rough outline and loaded the score with classic songs by George and Ira Gershwin like "Shall We Dance," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "But Not for Me," and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and many others. The plot is slight, involving a derelict theater in Nevada that needs saving, but it's just an excuse to get from one song to the next. 

Artistry's production of Crazy for You puts the music front and center, with a 20-piece orchestra seated onstage and the action playing out in front of the musicians. The rarity of an orchestra this size can't be overstated. This orchestra is larger than those in most current Broadway shows! In June of 2023, it was big news in the Broadway community when it was announced that the new production of Sweeney Todd would feature a 26-piece orchestra and Camelot featured a 30-piece orchestra.

THE Anita Ruth 
Photo by Rey Heise
The orchestra, under the direction of Anita Ruth, is top-notch. The Gershwin music is classic, and it's thrilling to be able to watch the orchestra and see the musicians and instruments playing the heck out of it. 

Although I was excited to hear about the 20-piece orchestra, I was a bit concerned when I heard the show would be performed in front of the orchestra, "concert style." I should have had more faith. Although the show uses minimal sets and basic black costumes, it all works. The stripped down visuals in this production put the emphasis on the music and the dancing, which are both stellar. 

The twelve performers play a host of roles, with just an accessory or two to distinguish them. Costume consultant Britt Hilton, Wardrobe Technician Emily Garst, and Lead Stitcher Laura Jones, with Production Manager/Props Designer/Costume Coordinator Katie Phillips, put together just the right pieces to clarify each character, leaving the rest to the actors, whose presence made it clear who they were playing at any moment. Instead of feeling bare bones, the minimal costumes and props feel very well-thought-out and deliberate. 

And the dancing, choreographed by Elly Stahlke and Kyle Weiler, is outstanding. Personally, I'm a big fan of tap dancing, and watching people tap their way through the numbers in perfect unison makes me unreasonably happy. Leads Kyle Weiler and Annika Isbell as Bobby and Polly are charming and really get the audience invested in their relationship as well as dancing superbly.

Overall, this show, overseen by director Ben Bakken, is a master class in doing the most (entertaining show) with the least (distracting elements). It's a rare opportunity to see and hear this classic musical, so tap your way down to Bloomington this weekend!