GORGEOUS GEORGE

George Gershwin's pop tunes hold up after all these years. Tunes like "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "But Not for Me" have beautiful melodies and jazzy energies that are still capable of knocking your socks off. Crazy for You brings many of Gershwin's most memorable songs together--sort of a showcase with a plot. And though the current production at Country Dinner Playhouse leaves something to be desired (namely, a persuasive leading lady), the rhythm it's got is plentiful.

Since this is at least the second time a local theater group has staged this musical comedy in the past year, the plot is familiar by now. Rich boy Bobby Child, engaged to highly unsuitable Irene and pushed around by his controlling mother, really wants to dance, but the women in his life won't let him. Banker Mom orders him out to Nevada to foreclose on an old theater. But when he arrives, he spots pretty Polly and falls hard--in more ways than one. One of the best things about this show is the physical comedy: delightful pratfalls and gravity-defying dance routines.

The little old mining town long deserted by the miners is in danger of disintegrating. Worse yet, the charming old theater Bobby has come to foreclose on belongs to Polly and her pa, Everett. Both Polly and Everett are attached to the theater by memories of Polly's mother's performances.

When Polly finds out that Bobby has come to foreclose, she dismisses him. So Bobby disguises himself as the famous Broadway producer Bela Zangler, sends for the Zangler Follies--the girls are his pals, see--and drafts the local yokels into taking the stage with his flock. The boys in town are all instantly trainable as dancers, natch, and first thing you know, the whole show has come together and Polly has fallen for Bobby-as-Bela.

Meanwhile, the real Bela shows up, and the very best routine of the evening is a perfectly synched mirror number he performs with Bobby called "What Causes That?" Both boys are drunk, and each thinks the other is his own mirror image.

This is an old-fashioned musical, so everything turns out well in the end. Bela courts his favorite Zangler girl, Bobby and Polly find each other, and even the villain of the piece shapes up and falls for the very "Naughty Baby," Irene.

But though the plot may be hackneyed, the music isn't, and neither are the dance routines. "I Got Rhythm" is the most complex and delightful of the bunch; the company uses bottles, pickaxes, washboards and large tin pans to dish up this dazzling number.

Patrick Boyd's easy grace and boyish charm as Bobby is matched by his high energy and stylish delivery. But Kari Nicolaisen as Polly is really no match for him. Pretty and graceful, she never breaks loose from a pallid musical-comedy style. We need to feel more fully the wistful, earthy longing in "Someone to Watch Over Me" and the passionate charm of "Embraceable You." Nicolaisen conveys neither the budding passion nor the vocal pyrotechnics we'd like to hear in what are, after all, the very best songs of the evening.

Jan Van Sickle, however, makes an engrossingly villainous Lank. And what Melinda Wilson lacks in vocal riches, she makes up for in style as Irene. The two are terrific together. The most delightful comic presence, though, is Dale Stewart as Everett. Clumsy, spacy and lovable, Stewart's Everett tickles through the whole show--which, in the end, is embraceable, too.

 
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