Crazy For You, performed by Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s final-year graduates, continues at Silk Street Theatre, London until 12 July.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Every year the same verdict on a Guildhall School musical: lift this show lock, stock and barrel a couple of miles across London to the West End and the vast majority of the audience couldn’t tell the difference between this incredibly polished student production and a star-studded professional one.
There is a difference: you’d save around £40 per decent ticket to see Guildhall’s genuinely funny, stunningly choreographed version… and a glass of wine sets you back £4 instead of the liberty-taking West End’s seven or eight.
Coincidentally, Crazy For You, driven by the dancing feet of Tom Chambers, launches a 31-venue tour shortly with seat prices more user-friendly.
Yet it’s hard to see how it could be more rewarding than what these triple-threat stars of the future serves up in spades at their lovely Silk Street Theatre.
It’s a hybrid of a musical, put together in the 1990s from classic 1930s Gershwin songs – George always gets the credit, but many of the lyrics are down to brother Ira (or as one radio disc jockey embarrassingly called him “Gershwin’s lovely wife Ira!”).
Here we have Luke Thallon as the lead Bobby Child, rich son of a New York banking family and frustrated dancer ordered by his mother to head off to sleepy Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on its rundown theatre when what he really wants to do is to be a hoofer at the Zangler Follies.
Unfortunately, impresario Bela Zangler isn’t impressed by Bobby’s audition, but he too turns up in Deadwood with his sparkly dancers. This leads to an outstanding scene with Child, complete with beard and black glasses as the fake Zangler, and Stefan Cennydd as the real one. A great piece of comedy and choreography (Ewan Jones at the top of his game).
Naturally, he has to fall head over heels with the tomboyish Polly Baker (Lucie Fletcher, excellent), the only pretty girl in this one-horse town full of lazy cowboys.
Thallon is little short of sensational, a magnificent dancer, with tap a speciality, on top of a strong singing voice and a great gift for comedy.
Ken Ludwig’s script is full of sharp one-liners which require perfect timing. Thallon rises to every challenge. It helps to have an audience that isn’t afraid to laugh at what is a very silly story (for a start, why would 11 Broadway babes give up their vacation for a gig in Deadrock?).
The posh English couple who turn up not to see the show but to put Deadrock in their travel guide Mickey-take a treat in the hands of Will de Renzy-Martin and Mary Galloway, while Ruth Ollman uses all her female wiles to get her man in her one big number ‘Naughty Baby’.
Cowboys’ ‘Bidin’ My Time’ amusingly introduces us to them – and dancing gals are terrific fun in the ensemble numbers but too many to name individually – there are 19 in total in a massive cast of 29.
The Guildhall, with a huge stage to work with, never makes it easy for itself and this is an awesome evening, reminding us why theatre at its finest runs rings round what movies and TV can offer.
Martin Connor, who has just directed the touring La Cage aux Folles, pulls it all together and never misses a trick, while the 33-strong orchestra – almost all Guildhall students – has a ball with Gershwin’s lush melodies. They are in good hands under Michael Haslam’s baton and Adam Wiltshire has come up with a fabulous set.
After ‘Embraceable You’, ‘Shall We Dance?’, ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, ‘I Got Rhythm’, ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’, who could ‘ask for anything more?’ Not me.