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‘Crazy for You’ returns with eye-popping flair

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Diamond Head Theatre’s “Crazy for You” packs upbeat energy into intense choreography.
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Gershwin tunes and big dance numbers equal upbeat entertainment in Diamond Head Theatre’s joyous reprise of “Crazy for You”.

Has it really been 13 years since Diamond Head Theatre last presented "Crazy for You"?

Yes, it has, and with David Spangenthal back to reprise his 1997 performance as Bobby Child, DHT’s current production has the same irresistibly joyous spirit of its 20th-century predecessor.

‘Crazy For You’

» Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
» When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 10
» Cost: $12-$42 (discounts available)
» Info: 733-0274 or www.diamondheadtheatre.com

Spangenthal once again plays the role as if it had been written for him. He projects the same youthful charm as an actor, singer and dancer, and the same amazing skill as a physical comedian. Kathryn Mariko Lee (Polly Baker) is delightful as his leading lady, and DHT Artistic Director John Rampage has assembled an impressive array of talent around them. This is upbeat, "feel good" entertainment in the best sense of the term.

Yes, technically speaking, the show fits the profile of a "jukebox musical." The show is a reworking of one vintage Gershwin musical, "Girl Crazy," with Gershwin hits pulled from five others. However, the plot is more substantial than what normally suffices for a "jukebox" show.

Rich young Bobby Child would rather dance on Broadway than toil as a gofer for his overbearing mother in the family business. She sends him west to foreclose on a failed theater in Nevada. He falls in love with the owner’s daughter, who dumps him when she discovers who he is. Desperate to win her back, Bobby disguises himself as famed Broadway impresario Bela Zangler and convinces the townsfolk they can save the theater and revitalize the town by staging a big show ("Mickey Rooney does it all the time!" he says).

Of course, it isn’t that simple.

OK, so this 1992 vintage take on the Broadway musicals of the ’30s includes some anachronisms. The reference to Mickey Rooney is one. An oblique reference to the barricades scene in "Les Miz" is another. None of them detracts from the show.

The choreography is as big and imaginative as it gets on the local stage. Spangenthal, Lee and the cast dance incredibly long and intricate numbers that often incorporate an impressive variety of props in the process.

An early "wow" moment comes when Spangenthal leads the Zangler Follies dancers through "I Can’t Be Bothered Now." Another comes when several cast members carry him through the doors of the saloon while the set pieces are still in motion.

Lee wears her "western" accent a bit uncomfortably at first but soon makes the character her own. She dances beautifully; "Shall We Dance," her big number with Spangenthal, is a show stopper. She also delivers the vibrant emotion in her big vocal numbers, "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "But Not for Me."

Tony Young (Bela Zangler) demonstrates his command of physical comedy opposite Spangenthal in the elaborate "What Causes That?" number in which Bobby and Bela, dressed identically and both drunk, perform as mirror images of each other while mourning their lost loves.

Braddoc DeCaires (Lank Hawkins) gives a commanding comic performance as the rough-edged saloon owner who wants the theater to fail. DeCaires has several good bits prior to his big scene with Liz Stone (Irene Roth) where Irene, Bobby’s rejected fiancee, abruptly sets her sights on the hapless saloon keeper and reels him in with comic dominatrix style. It’s a highlight scene for Stone as well.

Holly Holowach (Mother) is another asset as Bobby’s domineering mother. In the real world Mother might be right, but never in a show like this.

There is plenty of depth elsewhere in the cast. Friston Ho’okano (Moose) reprises his 1997 performance and again plays a key role in "Slap the Bass." Other notables include stage veterans Fedrico Biven and Daniel James Kunkel, acrobatic Chris Villasenior, and high school students Joshua Patberg and Chloe Amos.


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