Crazy for You

JOHN LAWSON Theatre Royal, Norwich

JOHN LAWSON

Ken Ludwig and Mike Ockrent's frothy confection of a musical is unashamedly out of the old school.

In 1992, the pair looked back at the golden age of the big screen musical and made their own take on the "dozen great tunes in search of a story" formula.

In this case, the show formed an homage to one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of the 20th century, George and Ira Gershwin, some of whose greatest numbers are performed with great conviction by an enthusiastic and hard-working company.

Throw in some good old-fashioned high-class hoofing, Amy McNamara's sumptuous costumes, a finale set to die for from Alan Miller-Bunford, with more feathers, flashing lights and sequins than you can shake a stick at and you have a night of simple escapism that will have you whistling all the way home.

The story, of a frustrated dancer whose mother wants him to go into the family banking business but instead sends him into the arms of showbusiness - and the waiting girl - when dispatching him to foreclose the mortgage of a small-town theatre, really matters not one jot.

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This is all about how good everyone is as a song and dance team.

And the answer is: not too shabby! Darren Bennett is one to watch for the future as our hero Bobby Child, while former Generation Game hostess Melanie Stace proves she is much more than just a great pair of legs as the lovelorn cowgirl Polly.

Her performances of the standards Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me show off a fine and powerful voice.

There was a lovely cameo part for the veteran Audrey Leybourn, as Bobby's mother, proving how so often less is definitely more.

It's a pity that message doesn't rub off on director Chris Colby, who seems determined to beat us over the head with the more panto-mime elements at his disposal.

Shooting a cuckoo clock, introducing two cardboard cut-out English tourists (a completely wasted Sue Hodge and Christopher Beeny), and even erecting a barricade to lampoon Les Miserables are all incredibly heavy-handed. And as soon as we see a moose head on the wall of the saloon don't we just know it's going to talk at some stage?

Fortunately, nothing can dent the joy of the music and with Jonathan Gill's tight 10-piece band blowing up a storm, the cast sing and tap their way to a suitable climax.

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