Friday, April 19, 2024

It’s Easy to Be ‘Crazy’ For Maltz Musical

At the beginning of “Crazy for You,” lead character Bobby and a company of supporting dancers belt through “I Can’t Be Bothered Now,” a hummable tune about musical theater as an escape from the humdrum of daily life. It’s an early microcosm for what the entire show, which runs through Sunday at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, is about. Written in 1992, this Gershwin-by-way-of-Ken Ludwig work is a modern musical that feels authentically retro, harkening to the more innocent time of Arthur Freed’s classic MGM spectacles, where sensational showmanship trumped complex plots and where the sexual double intendres were buried, not broadcast.

The refreshingly simplistic story follows Bobby (Matt Loehr), an aspiring dancer in Depression-era New York who is forced into his parents’ soul-crushing bank business and who is inexplicably engaged to a woman he hates (Trisha Rapier). Things begin to look up when he is sent to a sleepy Western town to retrieve a dying property – which just happens to be a beloved former theater. Impersonating a New York stage guru modeled after Florenz Ziegfeld, he attempts to stage a Broadway-style show in the podunk village, partly to win over Polly (Vanessa Sonon), the town’s only eligible bachelorette. High jinks, pratfalls and mistaken identities ensue as the story barrels jubilantly toward a storybook resolution.

At one point, a character makes a reference to Karl Marx, but the musical’s humor is more along the lines of Groucho. As it’s written on the page, “Crazy For You” is already an effortlessly witty show, and it’s made more so on stage with a perfectly selected cast of out-of-town talent attuned to the show’s vintage wavelength. Loehr in particular is outstanding as Bobby, bringing a Jim Carrey-like elasticity to the manic, rubbery role.

Gershwin’s songs, culled mostly from “Girl Crazy,” “Shall We Dance?” and “A Damsel in Distress,” are delivered with freshness and are contextualized well into the spartan narrative. The performers’ lithe, breathless performances have a great period feel to them; when Bobby and Polly take on “Shall We Dance?,” it feels like watching Astaire and Rogers reincarnated.

But the real star of the show may be Maltz’s set design, which goes above and beyond the call of duty, transforming New York City’s skyline and glittering cabaret halls into a rural railroad town, complete with an intricate saloon and theater. Such is the case with Maltz’s tradition of quality: “Crazy For You” is a ridiculous, irrepressibly silly show, but it’s handled with the technical seriousness of a “Les Mis” in Maltz’s overcapable hands.

“Crazy For You” is at Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter, through Sunday. Tickets are $48 to $61 and going fast. Call 561/575-2223 or visit www.jupitertheatre.org.

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