Tapping feet set rhythmic tone for Gershwin musical

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By Bob Evans

The glitzy “Crazy for You,” billed as the new Gershwin musical when it debuted on Broadway years ago. Adapted from the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movie, Girl Crazy, the original script dumped and replaced with a new story to create a musical worthy of the Broadway boards.

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Of course, the singing and acting play major roles in Broadway shows, but the dance in “Crazy for You” moves the show and heightens the enjoyment factor. Reeder plays Bobby Child, an unaccomplished mamma’s boy bathed in the luxury of mamma’s millions during The Great Depression. His one interest is theatre–especially dancing. But, he never seems to be at the right place at the right time to reach his dreams.

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Bobby hears the “Go West, young man.” mantra from his business minded mother who sends him to Nevada to foreclose on a property behind in its mortgage and claim the property for her bank. Upon arrival in Deadwood, Nevada, Bobby finds a town where the men amuse themselves by recreating famous gun battles of the Old West, a run down theater (the property to be repossessed), and a father and daughter with no way to meet the mortgage to save the theater.

True to the original movie, “Put on a show to save the theatre” idea pops into Bobby’s head because he’s fallen madly in love with Polly, the co-owner of the theatre. But, of course, she detests Bobby because he represents the New York bank that wants to repossess the theater.

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Silly plot, yes, but it’s the stuff so many of the 1940s musicals revolve around. With the revised script, the music and lyrics of the Gershwins, and lots of singing and dancing, “Crazy for You” works and creates fun, family-oriented entertainment. “Crazy for You” blends perfectly with the Theatre in the Park format for family fun, picnics, outings for large groups at a bargain price.

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Success or failure of the Deadwood theater and also the Shawnee Mission show rests on the shoulders of Bobby Childs/Rob Reeder. He sings and dances his way into the hearts of Polly and the TTIP audience with style, charm, and charisma. Reeder carries the show with confidence. His partner in crime, Polly, Cara Hampton, delivers the poignant melodies penned by the Gershwins like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” “I Got Rhythm,” and others. Together Hampton and Reeder successfully create the aura of a successful show.

Two standout parts of the show are the tap sequences, choreographed by Valerie Martin. She has the ensemble tapping up a storm with precision steps and rat-a-tat-tat synchronicity. Just listening to the thundering taps fill the amphitheater sends sparks into the crowd.

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Two other technical standout area were costumes by Shannon Reigner and music direction by Matt Richardson. Without either the show would not have the flash and panache needed for “Crazy for You. Great job on those.

Another fun part of the show was a pantomime scene with Reeder and Chad Burris. The scene is reminiscent of a mirror stit by Lucille Ball and Harpo Marx. The scene is funny but needs to move faster. In an outdoor space the comedy needs to move faster to keep audience attention. Director Kevin Bogan did a great job with the direction of the show and the blocking so that all parts of the show sparkled.

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Cast: (Character Name, Performer) Bobby, Rob Reeder; Polly, Cara Hampton; Irene, Betsy Bledsoe; Bela Zangler, Chad Burris; Eugene Fodor, Ron Meyer; Patricia Fodor, Kathleen Marx; Lottie, Trudy Hurley; Lank, John Edmonds; Everett, Chip Buckner. Female Ensemble: Patsy, Natalie Rothfusz; Tess, Franci Talemantez-Witte; Elaine, Caroline Wise; Louise (Polly Understudy), Ramsey Self; Mitzi, Zoe London; Betsy, Danielle Sasche; Sheila, Natalie Dickter; Susie, Emma Drace; Vera, Christiana Coffey; Margie, Lauryn Hrley; Male Ensemble: Moose, Alex Gumminger; Sam, Logan Lee; Pete, Saul Jimenez; Harry/Chauffer, Jacob Witte; Wyatt, Josh Arellano; Mingo, Zach Kujath; Billy, Kyle Hyde; Junior/Perkins, Jacob Thomas; Jimmy, Yianni Perahotritis; Custus, Trevor Harr. Additional vocals; Rachel Adcock, Cori Weber, Daniel Wohlberg.

The production team was: Kevin Bogan, director; Valerie Martin, choreography; Matt Richardson, musical director/conductor: Jason Harris, Scenic design and technical director; Shannon Reigner, costumes; Frank Gentile, props deigner; Shelbi Arndt, lighting designer Josh Koan, sound designer; John Holland, hair an makeup designer; Korey Childs, assistant director; Sara McAdoo, production stage manager; MacKenzie Sammons & Frank Gentile, assistant stage managers; Michelle Reed, accompanist; Sarah Saugier, production manager.

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The Theatre in the Park Orchestra sounded magnificent with the lively Gershwin score. They are to be commended for such a great production. The orchestra, led by Matt Richardson is: Jim Vinkenbert, Kaytee Dietrich, Anne Sneller, Holly Hague, Stephen Samuelson, Danielle Mays, reeds; Andrew Bechstrom Andy Chapel, trumpet John Burke, Lee Finch, trombone; Jerry Old, Paul Jolley, horn; Kim Ico, Julia Davis, Maria Steinacker, Cate Steinacker, violin; Alexis Biehl, chello; Frank Annecchini, bass; Joel McCoy, drums; Brandon Rathburn, percussion; Michelle Reed, piano.

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“Crazy for You” continues for four more performances, beginning June 21 with curtain time at 8:30 p.m.

Tags: Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park, “Crazy for You” Theatre in the Park, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theatre

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