Crazy For You, Bristol Hippodrome and Tour

TO have one Strictly Come Dancing champion starring in a musical tour may be regarded as fortunate, but to have two … well, you get the idea.

When this production started life as the latest actor-musician show at the tiny powerhouse that is the Watermill Theatre, Newbury last Summer, Tom Chambers was the star.  Now on tour around the country, he is joined by fellow Strictly champ Caroline Flack, and they both clearly drew plenty of their fans to tonight’s show.

The Watermill has had Sondheim’s A Little Night Music wowing audiences this Summer, with a cast including two cellists with their instruments strapped on as they waltz around the stage, and the triple-threat of singing, dancing and acting has long been joined by the fourth “threat” of playing an instrument. This tour is no exception, and we are treated to some beautiful arrangements of songs we know so well from the Great American Songbook, accompanying some lovely solo and ensemble singing, with some great choreography from Nathan Wright.

Chambers is every inch the song and dance man, as he proved in Top Hat six years ago, and although he is no Astaire or Kelly, this show gives him the chance to show off his voice and his moves as Bobby the banker who would much rather dance. Flack is his fiancée Irene, who follows him to Nevada only to lose him to local girl Polly, played with a lovely innocence and a beautiful, accurate, sensitive voice by Charlotte Wakefield. Wakefield acts her socks off, and she means every one of those clearly-delivered Gershwin lyrics in the ballads such as But Not For Me and Someone to Watch Over Me. With no TV names on the bill, this would be her show.

The main star of this show, however, is the ensemble itself – with some good characterisation, good slapstick, and wonderfully-staged numbers, especially the parts of the show within the show, the mock gunfights, and the big routines involving the chorus line. This musical looks, sounds and feels like something from the early days of the stage musical, but was completely rewritten, with extra Gershwin hits added, just 25 years ago, and renamed, from the original Girl Crazy. Ken Ludwig’s script sticks to a fairly basic story line whilst including some good modern gags, especially between Lank and Irene.

I was puzzled when an announcement before the show pointed out that all the music was to be performed live on stage, but when the couple behind me on the way out commented that “some of the musicians must have been hidden away under the stage!” I realised why the announcement was necessary, and although it is hard to believe, actor-musician shows really DO perform it all, on stage!

I am happy just to sit and listen to some of tonight’s songs, some of the best ever written, from Embraceable You to I Got Rhythm and Nice Work if You Can Get It, but to see them interpreted by such a talented company as part of a show is an inspiration – one that should be seen by as many people as possible, so get a ticket if you can, and look out for it on tour.


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