'Crazy for You'at the National is a revival of great Gershwin tunes.

December 24, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

"Crazy For You," at Washington's National Theater, is a little shaky at start, but by the time the Broadway showgirls arrive the show finds its rhythm. From there on, it is consistently amusing.

The score is one of its greatest assets. The costumes, dance and scenery are others.

"Crazy For You" was intended to be a revival of the 1930 "Girl Crazy," in which Ethel Merman starred on Broadway.

You may have seen the 1943 movie version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Rooney played a New Yorker who journeyed to Arizona where he turned a dude ranch into a major attraction. Busby Berkeley did the musical numbers.

The people who decided to revive "Girl Crazy" took a close look at the book and decided it had to be changed. Ken Ludwig ("Lend Me a Tenor") redid the script. Now, the New Yorker is a wealthy idler who travels to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a theater.

Instead, he helps the owner restore it and convert it into a live house, complete with chorus girls.

This is where the showgirls first appear, in line formation, against a plain but brightly lighted backdrop, and from this moment on, "Crazy For You" pleases.

The songs are all by George and Ira Gershwin. Some come from "Girl Crazy." Additional songs come from other Gershwin stage and movie musicals.

The score also includes five previously unpublished Gershwin songs, and all delight. All fit the mood of this very zippy musical, one that is almost as much song and dance as it is book. A few lines are followed by a song. A few more lines and we are into song and dance, most of it tap.

Some of it, however, is ballroom, as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire did it. The producers want you to know that, because the ending is pure Rogers and Astaire, beginning with the dress Jodi Benson wears. It is almost a copy of one of the gowns Rogers wore in one of the Rogers-Astaire musicals.

At other times, the musical numbers kid "Les Miserables" and "Hello, Dolly!" but always nicely. These are homage more than send-up.

Among the songs are "Bidin' My Time," "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "But Not For Me" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It."

They're all worth hearing, again and again, and this is a show that is worth seeing, at least once.

Benson, who was the voice of "The Little Mermaid," is Polly Baker, apparently the lone female in Deadrock. Harry Groener is Bobby Child, the New Yorker who falls in love with her. John Hillner is the owner of the saloon next door to the theater, Michele Pawk is the woman who is engaged to Bobby, Ronn Carroll is father to Polly, and Jane Connell is Bobby's mother.

You'll like them. All enter into the spirit of this revival, once it is under way, once it gets beyond those opening scenes, some of which might be reworked by Ludwig. His opening badinage is not that strong.

L "Crazy For You" will remain at the National through Jan. 18.

"CRAZY FOR YOU"

- A '30s musical in which a New Yorker travels to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a defunct theater.

CAST: Harry Groener, Jodi Benson, John Hillner, Michele Pawk, Bruce Adler, Ronn Carroll, Jane Connell, Beth Leavel, The Manhattan Rhythm Kings.

DIRECTOR: Mike Ockrent.

RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 50 minutes with one intermission.

% TICKETS: 202-628-6166

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