Solid to the Core

Tuesday September 24, 02
by Dalt Wonk, Gambit Weekly,


Crazy for You, the 1992 Tony-winning brainchild of contemporary playwright Ken Ludwig, is a very loose adaptation of the Gershwin brothers' 1930 hit Girl Crazy. Ludwig also wrote Lend Me a Tenor, a memorable romp last year at Rivertown. And once again, Kenner is doing Ludwig proud. In fact, Alton Geno's production (he directed, co-choreographed, and does a comic turn) is the kind of show that makes one rummage around the office looking for that dusty, neglected, old satchel of superlatives.

There's no better place to begin than Gary Rucker, who claimed afterward, when I sought him out to congratulate him, that he had worked hard on the show. You could have fooled me. He made it all look so easy. Rucker has given us any number of inspired performances over the years -- and always displayed an uncanny, understated grace, particularly in the almost lost art of physical comedy. But as Bobby Child, the rich-boy banker who wants to be a dancer, he truly comes of age. Rucker sings in 10 of the 21 song numbers, dances up a storm and, what's still more difficult, dances in the halcyon peril of moonbeams.

Usually, I must confess, when the break comes in the love duet and the leading man takes his paramour in his arms to trip the light fantastic, I live in an agony of fear. Oh, the relief when the last chord sounds. He made it! Thank God. Not here. The performance is solid to the core.

Rucker's able and winsome opponent in the eternal battle of the sexes is Kelly Hirling Fouchi (who also co-choreographed the show). Fouchi gives us a farmer's daughter who would turn the head of any traveling salesman. She's pure country without corn and a charmer with such immortal tunes as "Embraceable You," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I Got Rhythm" -- this last being one of a handful of inventive extravaganzas that really kick up the dust and get you swaying in your seat thanks to a topnotch supporting ensemble.

A hilarious set piece in the second act matches Greg Di Leo as producer Bela Zangler and Rucker as Bobby Child disguised as Bela Zangler. In an extended mime that gets funnier the longer it lasts, these two (who suffered a similar confusion of identity in Lend Me a Tenor) become locked in a surreal mirroring of each other's actions.

Among other standouts are Angie Joachim, Linda Hubschen, Lorin Moore and Claire Conti. Lance Spellerberg designed the attractive set that smoothly transformed between myriad locations. Trish McLain provided the sparkling duds, while Flo Presti gets the kudos for musical direction.