Context


Crazy For You, billed as the “new Gershwin Musical Comedy”, with a book by Ken Ludwig, opened on February 19th, 1992, at the Shubert Theater in New York City. It ran for 1,622 performances. Directed by Mike Ockrent and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it featured Harry Groener as Bobby Child, Jodi Benson (of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” fame) as Polly Baker, and Bruce Adler as Bela Zangler. The show garnered a Tony Award for Outstanding Musical, as well as Tony Awards for Best Choreography (Susan Strohman) and Best Costume Design (William Ivey Long.) The show opened on the West End at the Prince Edward Theater on March 3rd, 1993, and ran for almost three years. This cast included Kirby Ward as Bobby Child, Ruthie Henshaw as Polly Baker, and Chris Langham as Bela Zangler.

Crazy for You is based loosely on the 1930 Gershwin musical Girl Crazy, which featured a boy from the East traveling to a ranch in the West, and helped to launch the careers of Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers, and has been made into a movie three times, most notably starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in 1943. Playwright Ken Ludwig was originally approached by the producers of Crazy For You, who has acquired the rights to the songs of the Gershwins, to adapt Girl Crazy, but Ludwig found the storyline to be weak and the script to be full of offensive stereotypes. He got permission to write a whole new musical, keeping the East goes West theme of Girl Crazy and building a tightly plotted, old-fashioned musical comedy which celebrates the fresh exuberance of the 1930s, when the songs were new. Ludwig included plenty of farcical mistaken identities, loving references to the kind of optimistic, youthful, high-energy shows for which Garland and Rooney (though popular in the 1940s, the tone was correct) were famous (“let’s put on a show in the old barn, and save ___.”), and the kind of tap duets and dream productions which were the hallmark of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He also included character homages to famous 1930s personalities, including Florenz Ziegfeld, the Broadway impresario, and Eugene Fodor, author of popular travel guidebooks.

Ludwig incorporated many George and Ira Gershwin tunes, from a variety of musicals, both staged and filmed. Besides Girl Crazy, a complete list of other shows includes: Treasure Girl, A Damsel in Distress, Oh, Kay, Shall We Dance, and Ladies First.

Casting Note: Many age ranges in Crazy For You hinge on Mrs. Child’s line “In the ten years since you left Harvard, you have accomplished nothing.” This places Bobby in his early thirties, with Polly and their respective parents falling accordingly in the likely brackets. If a director wished to cast or play the Leads and their parents a little younger, they might be sure to change the line to “In the five years”, or whatever range is desired. The roles of Bobby and Polly should be played as mid-twenties, minimum.

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