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A CurtainUp Review
That place was so tough the girls wore barbed wire garters. I won't tell you what the men wore.— Frisco Kate Follicle
Girl Crazy, which has been called the last and best of the Gershwins' silly musicals, introduced such hits as "Bidin' My Time,""Embraceable You" and an 18-year-old Ethel Merman singing "I Got Rhythm." While Merman played Frisco Kate Follicle, Ginger Rodgers, then 19, took the lead role of Molly Gray. When there were problems with one of the dances, the producers called in Fred Astaire, who worked with Rodgers for the first time. The rest is history.
Mark Kudish & Cast Members
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
But Girl Crazy has more than history on its side. The hit-laden show has a perennial appeal based for the most part on George Gershwin's jazzy rhythms and sentimental ballads, and Ira Gershwin's clever rhymes and soulful verses. It has been adapted for film three times, most notably in 1942 with Mickey Rooney playing opposite Judy Garland. It was also revived for the stage in 1992 as Crazy for You.
To summarize the flimsy plot: The girl crazy Danny Churchill is sent out west where his father believes he will be far from temptation. Mostly to keep himself amused in the boring, sleepy town, Danny starts his own nightclub which soon attracts such characters as the couple Frisco Kate and Slick Follicle, as well as a host of sexy female singers. Danny, however, only has eyes for Molly Gray, the local postmistress. Clearly it's the musical's flashy score, glitzy dance numbers and outlandish characters that have helped it to outlast many other Depression-era musicals.
New York City Center Encores!, which has been celebrating rarely produced works of important composers and lyricists since 1994 opens the 2009-2010 on a delicious note with this frothy entertainment that can't help but strike one's fancy. The show is directed by Encores! and Broadway veteran Jerry Zaks and features Chris Diamantopoulos as Danny Churchill and Becki Newton as Molly Gray, the tough westerner he falls in love with. Wayne Knight comes close to stealing the show as Gieber Goldfarb, Danny's Yiddish-speaking cab driver who ends up the unwilling town sheriff. And the brassy, big-voiced Anna Gasteyer rocks the house as Frisco Kate Follicle, playing opposite Marc Kudisch as her philandering husband, Slick.
Especially appealing are the many ensemble numbers such as "Bidin' My Time" and "Goldfarb! That's I'm" where the Encores! full-throttled treatment brings the stage heartily back to the effervescent 30s.
Although all Encores! productions are technically concert readings, which means the performers have scripts in hand throughout the show, the lavish costumes, evocative scenery and full orchestrations — to say nothing of the actors' expertise— have more than once led to a Broadway transfer. Whatever happens to Girl Crazy, it should take its rightful place among Encores! many fine but all too brief presentations.
Music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Book by Guy Bolton and Jack McGowan
Directed by Jerry Zaks
Musical Direction by Rob Fisher
Cast: Richard Poe (Jake Howell, Hotel Porter), Chris Diamantopoulos (Danny Churchill), Wayne Knight (Gieber Goldfarb), Daniel Stewart Sherman (Lank Sanders), Jeremy Beck (Pete), Becki Newton (Molly Gray), Mylinda Hull (Patsy West), Heather Ayers (Tess Parker), Robin Campbell (Flora Best), Ana Gasteyer (Frisco Kate Follicle), Marc Kudisch (Slick Follicle), Gregory Wooddell (Tom mason)
Scenic Consultant: John Lee Beatty
Costume Consultant: William Ivey Long
Lighting: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound: Scott Lehrer
Original Orchestrations: Robert Russell Bennett
NY City Center Encores!
New York City Center, West 55th Street between 6th and 7th avenues, (212) 581-1212, nycitycenter.org
Nov. 19 &mdash 22, 2009
Tickets: $95, $50 & $25
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons, Nov. 20, 2009
Bidin' My Time
The Lonesome Cowboy
Could You Use Me
Reprise: Bidin My time
Goldfarb, That's I'm!
Reprise: Embraceable You
I Got Rhythm
Sam and Delilah
Land of the Gay Caballero
But Not For Me
Treat Me Rough
Boy! What Love Has Done To Me!
When It's Cactus Time in Arizona
Reprise: Biding My Time
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