Why everyone is going to go crazy for Crazy For You at Chichester this summer

Crazy For You, Chichester Festival Theatre, until September 4.

Charlie Stemp as Bobby Child in Crazy for You at Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson
Charlie Stemp as Bobby Child in Crazy for You at Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson

It’s not often a show gets a standing ovation at the end of the first half. I’ve certainly never seen it before.

But fair enough. On the hottest day ever in this country, the Crazy For You company conjured the hottest show you’ll see this summer.

It’s a total blast – extravagant, flamboyant, entertaining and absolutely huge on energy. It was knackering just sitting there watching them all do their stuff.

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    With music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin and created as a show by Ken Ludwig 30 years ago this year, this revival of Crazy For You comes directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman who also choreographed the original three decades ago.

    And she whips it all up again in dazzling fashion, aided and abetted by a supremely talented cast.

    The big numbers are masterpieces each and every one, danced not just with split-second timing but also with the most astonishing spatial awareness. There are a lot of people on that stage. The split-centimetre precision is remarkable.

    But above all it’s the energy that impresses – especially from Charlie Stemp who wowed the Chichester crowds a few years back in Half A Sixpence and admits he’s struggled to find something at quite that level until now. You can see his joy in his face and in his every move.

    Stemp is a wonderfully expressive performer. There are times when you have to remember to look at all the others on a stage which is always busy. Opposite him Carly Anderson is equally impressive as his love interest.

    Stemp is theatre-mad Bobby reluctantly sent to the dying mining town of Deadrock in the Nevada desert (he arrives there as hot and bothered as we all did in Chichester this evening) to foreclose on a mortgage which turns out to be on a dilapidated theatre.

    There he instantly falls in love with the owner’s daughter Polly (Anderson). His every instinct is to get that theatre open again, but with the best intentions, he resorts to deceit, outraging the gal when it’s all uncovered. Love’s true course was never going to run smoothly…

    Along the way there are hilarious scenes with Bela Zangler (Tom Edden), the guy he ends up impersonating. Again, the comic timing is perfect.

    Inevitably the audience response was ecstatic at the end.

    In truth, it’s a show which probably gave us a touch too much of a good thing. Losing maybe 15 minutes would have taken it to the next level.

    And if you were going to be super-critical, it’s certainly true that the very finest shows have a much greater emotional oomph than Crazy For You offers. But clearly, in fairness, that was never the show’s intention. This is a night which is very much about the spectacle, and there is nothing wrong with that especially when the spectacle is as stunning as this one.

    Amazing choreography, the terrific spirit of its leads, the sheer quality of the music and such boundless energy on a day when the whole nation wilted… well, “they can't take that away” from Chichester Festival Theatre.

    Crazy For You is a fine addition to a very fine succession of CFT big-summer musicals, perfectly delivered. It deserves to be a sell-out. If you haven’t got your tickets, you’d probably better get your skates on…