By Guest Blogger, Mike Logothetis
Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.
The Candlelight Theatre’s exhilarating and tight production
of Crazy for You is a joy to experience and may change some misconceptions
about local dinner theaters.
After recent extensive upgrades, The Candlelight Theatre has
improved its technical and culinary abilities plus its overall
infrastructure. It’s an old, comfortable
building with a spiffy new interior, delicious buffet, attentive staff and, oh
yeah, top-notch performers. Remember, it
all boils down to the product on stage and Crazy for You delivers in spades.
This 1992 musical, with book by Ken Ludwig, takes songs by
George and Ira Gershwin and ties them together in a tale about a Broadway
dreamer who finds romance, drama and purpose in a small Nevada town.
Director and choreographer Dann Dunn takes the timeless
music of the Gershwins and makes it a hugely enjoyable and modern experience. Dunn’s staging and choreography feel exceptionally fresh. In number after
number, you find yourself watching the dance steps with unusual attention
because Dunn makes them so arrestingly interesting. The cast is versed in several dance styles,
but tap dominates, in a good way – think of all the clip-clop and bang-bang of
the Old West.
The show begins with Bobby Child (Nate Golden) – the rich
son of a New York banking family who yearns to perform on Broadway – being
unceremoniously rejected by impresario Bela Zangler (Max Redman). Searching for more from life, Bobby is torn
between unloving commitment to his longtime fiancee Irene (Kaylan Wetzel) and loyalty
to his mother (Susan Dewey), who demands that Bobby continue doing her bidding
in banking. One such mission is sending
Bobby to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on the rundown theater there. The town has seen better days, but Bobby’s
excitement at seeing the theater – and meeting last-girl-in-town, Polly (Madison
Buck) – makes him sympathetic to the locals’ desire to revitalize their town.
Saloon proprietor Lank Hawkins (Anthony Connell) tries to
convince Polly’s stubborn father Everett (Barry Gomolka) to sell him the
theater before Bobby Child’s bank takes it. Lank also has eyes for Polly and isn’t pleased that a romantic rival has
come to town in the form of a city slicker.
Bobby and Polly sow the seeds of love through two classic
songs (Could You Use Me? and Shall We Dance?). The former showcases the genius of Ira
Gershwin’s wordplay, while the second highlights a beautiful melody that is
typical of George Gershwin.
Bobby realizes that if he forecloses on the Gaiety Theater
he will lose the girl of his dreams. He
comes up with the idea of putting on a show to pay off the mortgage. Polly agrees to this plan until she finds out what
he is really doing in town and suspects deception. Heartbroken, Bobby decides to produce the show
anyway, but disguised as Mr. Zangler. Deeply
hurt, Polly expresses her loneliness in Someone to Watch Over Me – a lovely
performance by Ms. Buck.
A few days later, The Zangler Follies Girls appear like a mirage
in the desert, which excites and invigorates the men of Deadrock. Rehearsals for the big show don't go so well,
but upbeat Bobby changes all that with the song Slap That Bass – a rollicking
musical number where dancers become musical instruments.
This is a good time to mention the quality of the sets,
costumes and props. Envision
Productions has created a wonderful, dynamic stage with open spaces for large
dance numbers, but also a sense of intimacy. Amanda Gillies’ props are right in tune with what Mr. Dunn is trying to
get from the show and characters. Chairs, pickaxes and even plungers are used within intricate dance
routines and comedic interludes. The
costumes, designed by Tara Bowers and Timm Cannon, are period correct and allow
for fluid movement. It’s all seamless,
which is how scenery and props should work in a big production-style musical.
I’d also like to recognize the vast and capable chorus of
showgirls and cowpokes who enliven the show with pithy dance steps, robust
singing, and solid acting. Michelle
Affleck (Louise), Julianna Babb (Betsy), Nicole Calabrese (Patsy), Nicole Lewin
Mariash (Sheila), Jenna Rogalski (Elaine), Kristen Smith (Vera), and Erin
Michelle Waldie (Mitzi) are wonderfully joyous as the Zangler Follies Girls. Down-on-their-luck cowboys Zachary DeBevec
(Wyatt), Daniel Irwin (Pete), Chris Millison (Sam), Christian Ryan (Jimmy), and
Devon Sinclair (Moose) bring life and personality to the otherwise dead town.
Back at the Gaiety Theater, optimism reigns with the show
ready to wow any and all comers.
However, Polly has fallen in love with Bobby’s impersonation of Bela Zangler
(Embraceable You) and Irene makes a surprise visit to town.
Opening night arrives with the cowboys-turned-actors and
showgirls in high hopes (Tonight's the Night!). Sadly, everyone is frustrated to discover that
the only people to arrive are British guidebook writers Eugene (Topher Layton) and
Patricia Fodor (Lindsay Mauck). What begins
as disappointment changes into the realization that the show has reinvigorated the
once-sleepy town. The company celebrates
with a lively rendition of I Got Rhythm while the real Zangler stumbles
unnoticed into the town as the first act ends.
While all of the performances are solid, Nate Golden shines
in the lead role. Golden is a physically
deft, lively, and funny guy with singing and dancing chops to entertain
audience members of all kinds. Simply
put, Golden is a triple-threat of song, dance and acting. For me, the highlight of the show came early
when Bobby’s fiancee Irene and mother Lottie argue over him and his loyalties to
them. In a vivid daydream, Bobby
imagines himself dancing with the Follies Girls and joins them in a rousing
rendition of I Can't Be Bothered Now.
Act Two kicks off in Lank’s saloon with Bobby professing his
love to Polly. Unfortunately, she’s
still in love with the man she thinks is Zangler. Bobby is about to convince Polly that he has
been impersonating “Zangler” when the real Zangler stumbles into the saloon
looking for Tess (Kimberly Maxson) – one of his dancers for whom he carries a
Zangler finds Tess, but refuses her request to produce the
show and save the theater. Tess storms
off and the drunken Zangler bemoans his fate. Bobby, dressed like Zangler, appears and the
two men act as mirror images of each other – lamenting their lost loves in the
humorous What Causes That.
The next morning, Polly sees the two Zanglers and realizes
what has happened. Flustered, Polly
leaves for the town meeting to discuss the future of the theater. Irene comes to Bobby in one final attempt to
make him go back to New York with her, but Bobby rejects her, and states his
love for Polly. Immensely frustrated
with Bobby, Irene seduces Lank with the seductive Naughty Baby.
Bobby is all for trying the show again while Polly and most
of the townsfolk think they should abandon the venture. The Fodors enter and implore the dejected
townspeople to keep a Stiff Upper Lip, but by the end of the song, only
Polly, Everett, Bobby and Tess still think the show should continue.
Will the magic of the old Gaiety Theater save it from its
demise? Can Deadrock recover its old
majesty? Does true love triumph? You’ll have to visit Ardentown to find out! I will add that the Finale is a wholly
satisfying grandiose song and dance number that had the Opening Night audience
on its feet multiple times. It’s so
good, you’ll “...feel something down in [your] basement.”
The action at the theater doesn’t stop at Crazy for You and other musicals. The venue also hosts
monthly trivia and comedy nights. Operations Manager Dan Healy is emcee for Monday night Quizzo matches,
which pit the Jeopardy!-loving set against one another in team trivia. Food trucks are on site and drinks are
served. The Candlelight Comedy Club
invites you to the theater for an evening of food, drinks, and laughs. Local, regional, and national comics come to
entertain on a fairly regular monthly basis. The next Quizzo is on May 15 and the Comedy Club is open on May 18.
This production of Crazy for You runs through June
25. Tickets are $33/person or $60/couple. While most show are on
weekends, there are some mid-week matinee performances.
There’s lots of fun activity happening in Ardentown…“Who
could ask for anything more?”