Theater Review: A Gershwin Greatest Hits, You’ll Be Surprised What Steals Crazy for You

In a musical comprised of George and Ira Gershwin’s greatest musical theater hits, you’d think the famous songs would be the highlight. During Theatre Three’s charming if sometimes uneven production of Crazy for You, it’s not the heavy-hitters like “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” or “I Got Rhythm” that steal the show, it’s a lesser-known song called “What Causes That?” from 1928’s Treasure Girl. Sung by Sam Beasely and Brian Hathaway—who are, for purposes of the plot, dressed identically and drunk as skunks—the number is appealingly comedic and delightfully engaging. It’s not surprising that a pair of drunkards makes for great stage comedy, but is it surprising that this scene more than holds its own against the tap-dancing, ballad-belting frenzy that is the rest of this show.

A jukebox musical before Mamma Mia! was even a twinkle in ABBA’s eye, Crazy For You is a loose interpretation of the Gershwin brothers’ 1930 musical Girl Crazy, smooshed together with a few other popular Gershwin tunes from long-forgotten shows. It premiered on Broadway in 1992 with a book by Ken Ludwig, who retained the corny “let’s put on a show!” attitude while wisely making room in the script for some real zingers (personal favorite: “She’s the only woman in Deadrock.” “That explains why she looks so tired.”).

The resulting show is like a cozy pair of slippers: familiar and easy to slip into. An admittedly ridiculous plot, some pretty showgirls, a few adorably uncoordinated cowboys, and a zany mistaken identity ploy that of course involves a bad wig and stick-on moustache—it’s all here. And, for the most part, it looks and sounds fabulous thanks to director/choreographer Michael Serrecchia, co-choreographer Megan Kelly Bates, and technical director David Walsh, whose multifunctional set design boggles the mind by once again making Theatre Three’s little stage seem five times larger than it is.

Another huge nod goes to Sam Beasely, a nonstop ball of energy who sells each scene he’s in (which is nearly all of them) with dizzying enthusiasm. Playing Bobby Child, a New Yorkrich kid obsessed with show business who gets sent to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on an old theater, Beasely taps into the vaudevillian showmanship he so perfectly channeled in Pfamily Arts’ Sideshow and kicks it up a few notches. Kicks it, twirls it, step-ball-changes it—Beasely handily demonstrates why he’s one of DFW’s rising stars.

Not quite as carefree is Emily Lockhart as Polly Baker, Deadrock’s lone woman and the focus of Bobby’s instant infatuation. She’s sassy and bubbly enough to endear, but doesn’t quite reach the emotional depths required of the show’s more tender moments. She’s also tasked with most of the big solo songs, and her voice doesn’t possess the smoothness that Gershwin music requires.

Rounding out the large cast is Theatre Three favorite Hathaway, once again donning a ridiculous wig and outrageous foreign accent like he did in last season’s The Drowsy Chaperone, this time to play Ziegfield stand-in Bela Zangler. It’s him who Bobby impersonates to win over Polly, and Hathaway provides enough nuanced material to make Beasely’s send-up recognizable and hilarious. Other standouts include Calvin Roberts and Preston Isham as eager Deadrock cowboys and Whitney Hennen as dim-bulb chorine Patsy.

Though the songs may not scale the hoped-for aural heights, the cast’s athletic dancing and sheer enthusiasm goes a long way to make up the difference.

Photo by Jeffrey Schmidt


  • Dallastheatergeek

    The show was very enjoyable. Hats off to the director for pulling this off in such a small space!!! In my opinion the only weak link was Sam. He doesn’t yet have the voice or dance abilities for this show. His voice is not strong and by no means does he carry this show. I have no idea how you could praise him as you did. “What Causes That” was his best number and was fun to watch. Other than that, I would have enjoyed the scenes better without him. The rest of the cast was superd. Maybe you should go back and watch the show again.

  • Lindsey Wilson

    Thanks for you opinion, Dallastheatergeek, and that’s what this review is: opinion. Sam’s performance did it for me, but he may not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m glad you enjoyed the show so much, and I’m sure Theatre Three wouldn’t have any quibbles with people returning to see it again.

  • Jerome Weeks

    Technically, a ‘jukebox musical’ is a new show created by cobbling together the pop hits of a music group (or an entire era). In other words, the songs never were written as part of a Broadway musical. The first ones were far earlier than ‘Mamma Mia’ – shows like ‘Elvis,’ ‘Blues in the Night’ and ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ from tje ’70s and ’80s. Whatever storyline that exists in a jukebox musical is completely, newly manufactured or is so thin it’s just an excuse to hang some tunes together, tunes that often don’t come out of the characters or the narrative.

    What you have with ‘Crazy for You’ is much closer to a ‘revisal’ – a revival with added songs and re-written scenes. Basically, revisals have been a way to update old shows that have badly flawed or outdated books. Here, for instance, is some of the history of ‘Crazy’ and its status as a ‘revisal’:

  • Lindsey Wilson

    Hi Jerome, thanks for chiming in! The term “jukebox musical” is tricky; shows with that nickname don’t technically have to be comprised of works not written for the stage; the songs are plucked from a prior catalog by a music group, era, or songwriting team. “Mamma Mia!” was used as an example because of its familiarity and wide appeal (who doesn’t know ABBA?).

    Revisal (my spell check doesn’t like it either) comes into play when the original show is for the most part retained but undergoes a few major tweaks and the addition of entirely new songs–“The Scarlet Pimpernel” comes immediately to mind, as do all the incarnations of “Jekyll & Hyde.”. “Crazy for You” is very similar to “Girl Crazy,” but the cobbling together of songs written previously for other shows and not new ones qualifies it as a jukebox musical in my mind. It is, after all, considered its own show and not a straight update of “Girl Crazy.”

    You mention that in jukebox musicals, the tunes often don’t come out of the characters or narrative. Since so many of the songs in “Crazy for You” were originally written for other characters and situations, I think that also helps qualify it as a jukebox musical.

  • Weird Horse

    Lindsey, I completely agree with you. This was my first time being at Theatre Three and I will definitely return. Naturally, I’m not a huge musical fan, but the singing and dancing in this performance was great. Especially when it came to Sam. I will definitely see him again in any future plays. His voice and dancing capabilities were more on point than that of some of the other characters. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would have been able to focus as much as I did. That, and he made dazzle happen. Great review!!!