What better way to chase off the recession blues than with showgirls and cowboys?

Crazy for You, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London
Four out of Five stars
Reviewed by Matilda Battersby
For The Independent

What better way to chase off the recession blues than with showgirls and cowboys? That's what Timothy Sheader's gloriously silly revival of Ken Ludwig's 1993 reinterpretation of Ira and George Gershwin's Girl Crazy tells us.

The original play cheered up the Depression years and the follow-up by Ludwig arrived in the economic gloom of the early 1990s. So, given that it opened as London was being torn up by rioters, the arrival of Crazy for You in Regent's Park this year can only be a good thing.

The show's premise is deliciously implausible. Bobby Child (the excellent Sean Palmer) is a young banker, hamstrung by a cloying mother and fiancée, who harbours a desire for Broadway stardom. Sent from New York to Deadrock, Nevada on a spurious delivery mission, he happens upon "a town full of singing cadavers" which contains not only the girl of his dreams, Polly Baker (Clare Foster) – the only female in the town – but also an abandoned theatre.

The tale, which strings together 22 Gershwin songs, is a whirlwind of slightly preposterous happenstance and slapstick. For some reason adopting the identity of a famous New York director, Bela Zangler, Bobby persuades Polly (whose father owns the abandoned theatre) to let him put on a show and save it from repossession by the bank. Thus an entourage of fabulously bedecked chorus girls turn up in support of Bobby and wreak havoc among the cowpoke yokels.

Stephen Mear's choreography is to be marvelled at. During favourites like "I Got Rhythm" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It", the whole company was high-kicking until they nearly injured themselves. Cowboys hurled chorus girls around, even swinging them from pickaxes. At one point all 24 cast members performed incredible moves on metal trays, making the show, briefly, a bit like Stomp, but with feathers and sequins.

The best moment came when Bobby, dressed as Zangler, drunkenly encountered the real Zangler (a fantastic David Burt), also inebriated. The pair mirrored each other in a stumbling moment of hilarity which was pure vaudeville.

Watch this, and you will spend three hours with a gormless grin on your face.

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