Comedy, choreography makes 'Crazy for You' most fun Merry-Go-Round show in years
In the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's program for "Crazy for You," performer Sam Lips calls lead character Bobby Child a "dream role."
When you see Lips as Child on the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse stage, you'll believe him. When you see him float through "Nice Work if You Can Get it" with angled arms and bouncy legs, or slug away at the show's softball one-liners, you'll believe this is the kind of role Lips has been practicing in front of his bedroom mirror for years.
His performance is the glue of a production with several of its own equally sublime parts. Directed and choreographed by Parker Esse, the Gershwin showcase delivers everything one could ask of musical theater: classic songs, a charming story, lighthearted comedy and show-stopping dance. It's the most fun and high-energy festival show in years.
Lank (Thomas Schario) is being driven a little batty by demanding hotel guests in the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival’s production of "Crazy for You" at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Owasco.
As Polly, daughter of the Nevada theater owner Lips' banker is sent to foreclose upon, Katerina Papacostas is a down-home delight who matches him move for balletic move on duets like "Shall We Dance?" and "Embraceable You." But on solos "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "But Not For Me," she lays bare the show's romantic tension just fine on her own.
Patrick Oliver Jones' Bela Zangler, Thomas Schario's Lank and LilyAnn Carlson's Irene are just as locked into the show's rapid-fire comedic rhythm, hitting their pratfalls and punchlines with maximum force and note-perfect accents before springing into position for the next. The ensemble shines bright throughout, too, whether it's staging gunfights in the saloon or blowing out "I Got Rhythm" with percussive serving trays and chorus lines. Rare is the moment when the mood on stage isn't utterly, infectiously fun.
From Lips' tapping to the ladies of Zangler's Follies kicking and flapping in unison, Esse's choreography feels deeply, naturally expressive. And the always great playhouse orchestra gives the dancers plenty of sonic oomph, and even sent the opening night audience into audible rumbles with the show's cymbal-rich rhythms.
But no one feels "Crazy for You" in their bones like Lips, and no one does more to make the audience feel it in theirs, too.
Photos by Ron Heerkens Jr.