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Posts Tagged ‘Carly Anderson’

The arrival of the story musicals of Rogers & Hammerstein in the 1940’s-50’s seems to have pushed the lighter fare of the Gershwin’s out of the repertoire. Of their original 1920’s-30’s shows, I can only recall London having Lady Be Good at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Open Air Theatre and Of Thee I Sing & Let Them Eat Cake from Opera North at Sadler’s Wells. In their place, we’ve had reworkings and mash-ups from My One and Only in 1983 to Nice Work If You Can Get It in 2012 and the screen-to-stage adaptation of An American in Paris in 2015, but the most successful of these is Crazy For You, based on Girl Crazy. This is my fourth production in nine years.

The East coast meets West coast culture clash is fully exploited for humour by writer / adapter Ken Ludwig; this is one of the funniest of musical comedies. Stagestruck Bobby is sent by his NYC banking family to Deadrock, Nevada (pop. 37) to repossess a theatre. He falls in love with feisty Polly, the theatre owner’s daughter, and sends for his theatre friends to put on a show in their beleaguered theatre. His imposing mother eventually makes it to Deadrock to approve his match and, surprisingly, make her own, so it all ends happily.

Susan Stroman choreographed her late husband Mike Ockrent’s original 1992 production. Her career has since developed as a director / choreographer and we’ve been lucky enough to see her dansical Contact, two Mel Brooks shows – The Producers & Young Frankenstein – and Kander & Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys in London. Her work here is masterly in every respect, with terrific designs by Beowulf Boritt and William Ivey Long, and a brilliant band led by MD Alan Williams.

I’ve wanted to see Charlie Stemp in a musical again since his big break in 2016’s Half a Sixpence, also at Chichester. He tops that with a truly star performance, adding a talent for physical comedy to his exceptional dancing, singing and acting skills. Carly Anderson is a great match as Polly, her vocals simply beautiful. In a fine supporting cast that’s too big to namecheck every one, I feel compelled to single out Tom Edden as Zangler, whose drunken scene with Stemp as fake Zangler is one of the funniest pieces of physical comedy I’ve ever seen (well, since Edden’s turn as the waiter in One Man, Two Guvnors anyway).

I’ve seen something like twenty of Chichester’s musicals, either at their home or in the West End – often both! – and this is amongst the best. Musical theatre heaven just 65 miles from home. I’m now waiting with bated breath for a West End transfer.

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The film on which this is based was a post-Grease vehicle for Olivia Newton-John. It was a premiere league turkey and won the inaugural Razzle Award; in fact, it inspired them. Twenty-seven years later someone had the idea of this stage musical adaptation. Bonkers? Well, obviously not as it was a Broadway hit, clocking up more than 500 performances. It’s taken eight years to get to London and it turns out to be a preposterous story and as camp as a decade of Christmases, but with its tongue firmly in its cheek it proves to be rather irresistible.

A Venice Beach artist has created a chalk picture of the muses. These immortals arrive from Mount Olympus with the chief muse transforming into a mortal Aussie woman, who sets out to help him. They go about persuading a local property developer to let them open Xanadu, a club which was built but never opened, as a roller disco. Bonkers. The music by ELO’s Jeff Lynne and John Farrar is typical 70’s pop disco with numbers like Evil Woman, Physical and the title track hits at the time. Douglas Carter Beane’s book cheekily sends up anything and everything, including the show itself. It’s hard not to succumb to its crazy charms, particularly in a full house cheering and whooping as if its a cult show they’ve seen many times before.

Nathan M Wright’s choreography is a hoot, featuring roller skating of course, including one duet between the chief muse on skates and the artist in a phone box! Morgan Large’s design is a riot of colour and includes more glitter, and glitter balls, than you’ve probably seen in one place before. Paul Warwick Griffin’s staging uses every opportunity to get a laugh. It really is rather hard to resist.

Samuel Edwards is terrific, in particularly fine voice, as naive artist Sonny. Carly Anderson’s Aussie accent is (intentionally) all over the place, which results in an awful lot of laughs and she milks the role for all it’s worth. There’s great support from the other six muses (two played by men!), but it’s a particular joy to see Alison Jiear as evil muse Melpomene in a stage musical once more.

I have a sneaky feeling this is going to become a Rocky Horror-type cult – we certainly haven’t seen the last of it.

 

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