Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: AUGUST 20, 2010
It’s an age-old love story: persistent male, resistant female. The twist is, in “Crazy for You ,” they’re singing and dancing, tapping their way through gorgeous Gershwin tunes. In “The Last Romance, the cautious lovers are octogenarians, played by real-life, 80-something Marion Ross and her long-term partner, Paul Michael.
They were last together onstage at the Old Globe a decade ago, in Joe DiPietro’s lightweight comedy, “Over the River and through the Woods.” DiPietro wrote this one specifically for Ross and Michael, folding in a few elements from their lives. It’s still a fluff-piece, sweet, but sentimental and predictable, with minimal insight into the trials of late-life love. Michael is wonderful, though, effortless and thoroughly engaging as Ralph, the gruff old guy giving it one last go. Ross, an associate artist at the Globe, seems to be working harder, as Ralph’s somewhat more upper crust, and considerably more reluctant, paramour. As the third wheel, Patricia Conolly is a hoot as Ralph’s possessive, overprotective sister from Hoboken , where the action takes place. The symbolism is pretty heavy-handed – in the text and the design – but there’s one delightful surprise element: the play is laced with operatic arias, magnificently sung by robust baritone Joshua Jeremiah. The bottom line, intoned twice, in case we miss it, is that their story is just like opera: “People fall in love but can’t get together, because Life gets in the way.” Heavy, man.
No effort made in the direction of anything but featherlight entertainment in “Crazy for You.” There’s even a New Jersey connection. Some of the timeless George and Ira Gershwin songs were discovered in a warehouse in Secaucus in 1982. Ten years later, some of those finds, coupled with numbers culled from the 1930 score of “Girl Crazy, ” became the big Broadway hit, “Crazy for You.” Like most jukebox musicals, it tries to cram a silly plot into a flashy song catalogue. Here, it’s the unlikely meet-cute of a New York rich boy and a downhome gal from Deadrock , Arkansas . Havoc ensues. But oh, those fabulous songs: “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” ““Someone to Watch Over Me,” and more than a dozen others.
Moonlight Stage Productions has pulled out all the stops for this one. The excellent 19-piece orchestra, under the assured baton of Terry O’Donnell, is playing the original Broadway arrangements and orchestrations, which are phenomenal. And director-choreographer John Vaughan has re-created all the original choreography, which is fabulous, and fantastically executed by a killer ensemble. The tapping is terrific, and the singing is, too.
At the center of it all is one mega-talented, triple-threat knockout: the adorable, rubber-limbed, charismatic Jeffrey Scott Parsons. Dazzling dancing, singing, music, costumes and comedy. As the Gershwins would put it, “Who could ask for anything more?”
Moonlight Stage Productions’ “Crazy for You” runs through August 28, in Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park .
“The Last Romance” continues at the Old Globe, in Balboa Park , through September 12.
©2010 PAT LAUNER