‘Crazy for You’ entertains but rests on problematic source material

Bay Area Musicals/Courtesy

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With mistaken identity, falling in love within minutes and song and dance numbers in between, “Crazy for You” certainly fits the mold of a traditional musical. And, like many other musicals, the plot of this show is less than strong, with emphasis, instead, placed on the musical numbers. The weak plot is noticeable and is the root of some problematic character issues, but Bay Area Musicals’ “Crazy for You” does its best with the source material chosen and, ultimately, makes for an entertaining night.

“Crazy for You” features music and lyrics by famed musical composers Ira and George Gershwin, with the book by Ken Ludwig. It centers around Bobby Child (Conor Devoe), an aspiring performer from New York, who is sent to a small town in Nevada to foreclose a local theater. There, he meets the theater owner’s daughter Polly (Danielle Altizio) and, before his identity is known, the two fall in love. After her discovery of his character, however, she leaves him, forcing Bobby to try and save the theater in order to win her back. Playing at Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco, “Crazy for You,” directed by Matthew McCoy, premiered Saturday.

With the traditional musical feel of this production comes some traditional tropes that may not sit well with modern audiences — namely, the source material’s problematic representation of how women should be treated. Polly, the only woman in town, deflects the incessant pursuits of her by the local saloon owner, Lank (Sean McGrory); he exerts unwarranted possession over her well into the plot. She then falls for her love interest, Bobby, after persistent attempts of his to get her attention, including kissing her, baselessly, within minutes of meeting her. She is clearly not interested at first, but he continues anyway. This meet-cute is not cute but, rather, uncomfortable to watch.  

Meanwhile, the weakness of the plot rests in its simplicity and predictability, which takes away from the potential of the surprisingly complex characters. Despite the simple plot, the production is actually quite long, with a drawn-out exposition. The unnecessary length is noticeable and begins to take away from the elements of this production that do work.

The successful elements come down to what make musicals work in the first place: song and dance. Bay Area Musicals’ utilization of these theatrical elements is the strongest part of the musical. The two leads, Devoe and Altizio, do a smooth and compelling job at this, radiating the most chemistry during their musical numbers. Uncomfortable meet-cute aside, the two meshed during these parts of the show in a way they didn’t outside of the songs.

Not to mention that, in the bigger ensemble musical numbers, the cast came together in sync to create a bold spectacle that highlights why musicals are so alluring for so many audiences.

Another successful element was the show’s handling of comedy. While the plot may fall flat in intricacy or character consideration, it does comedy well. There were multiple instances of the audience laughing out loud, roaringly. Many of the featured jokes are surprisingly clever — taking a second to sink in — for a plot that is otherwise not especially strong. Every humorous moment is wholesome, emphasizing the family-friendly feel of this production.

Musicals often inherently require a certain level of suspension of disbelief. Characters are falling in love by the end of a four-minute song; the span of two days contains more action than would seemingly fit into a week, and, of course, everyone impulsively breaks out into song and dance. With that in mind, “Crazy for You,” when taken lightly, can become a night of fun entertainment. Thus, with inherent issues and catchy songs in tension with each other, it comes down to the question of what the audience is willing to push aside in order to be entertained.

Nikki Munoz covers theater.

“Crazy for You” will be playing at Alcazar Theatre through Dec. 16.

Nikki Munoz covers theater. Contact her at [email protected].