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Review: 'Crazy for You' a good ensemble performance

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This review of the Lawrence Communtiy Theatre’s show “Crazy for You” comes from Megan Helm, a music educator who lives in Lawrence:

In the Lawrence Community Theatre’s latest production, “Crazy for You,” tap shoes shuffle, chorus girls squeal and lonely cowboys lie around, whittling and cleaning guns just waiting for something to happen.

And they don’t have to wait long. Based on the Gershwin brothers’ show, “Girl Crazy,” which was made into a movie by none other than Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, “Crazy for You” is an over-the-top homage to the movie musicals of the 1930s.

The majority of the action is set in the fictional town of Deadrock, Nev., where an abandoned theater is on the verge of foreclosure. Aspiring dancer Bobby Childs, played to perfection by Joshua Cuffe, is charged by his ruthless banker mother with the task of shutting the place down. Of course, Bobby falls in love and rallies the community to “put on a show” to save the theater.

Don’t expect to be surprised by any plot twists. The reason this show won the 1992 Tony for best musical is its heart. Expect to giggle and guffaw and go home humming all of the classics from the Gershwin songbook. The show is well cast with dazzling costumes and clever sets. The leads, Cuffe and Kendra Verhage, have that “experienced girl falls in love with youthful and exuberant boy” vibe. Verhage has a Ginger Rodgers-esque sassiness that spices up the plot.

The ensemble cast blended well. Standouts included Bob Newton, Jeff Blair, Amber Dickinson, Alicia Ellingson, Quinn Wasson, Jacob Leet and Dean Bevan. Some creative double-casting included Jason Abramowitz and Carrie Burkhead, who when they weren’t playing a cowboy and chorus girl, were the intrepid English tourists. Ann LaPoint, the ruthless Mrs. Lottie Child, also appeared incognito in the chorus.

Choreographer Barb Wasson designed the movement for the large cast as they tapped, waltzed and even built a human centerpiece of dancers a la Ziegfield.

Charles Goolsby does a good job of breaking down the wall that separates the audience and performers. The theater itself becomes part of the story as the actors play from the aisles. I particularly liked the feeling of being backstage that he created when, after the first number, the chorus members delivered their spectacular finish with their backs to the audience.

Musically, the show could have been stronger, but the acting, dancing and general enthusiasm more than made up for it.

Just like the characters in “Crazy for You,” the Lawrence Community Theatre has been pulling together everyday people from all walks of life to present high quality entertainment. It takes a village of dedicated volunteers to put on a show. This summer, “Crazy for You” fits the bill. It’s a winner.

“Crazy for You” continues with performances today through June 21. Visit www.theatrelawrence.com for show times and ticket information.

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