Hessle Theatre brings Crazy For You to Hull New Theatre

Our theatre reviewer, Sam Sims, popped down to a rehearsal of Crazy For You, which Hessle Theatre brings to Hull New Theatre from Tuesday 19 – Saturday 23 March.

Hessle Theatre Company are back, bringing Hull audiences yet another banger straight from London’s West End. Their 101st show, Crazy for You is a fire-cracker of a spectacle, reminiscent of the best musicals from Hollywood’s Golden Age, with some serious tap tapping talent.

Hessle have been performing at Hull New Theatre since 1958 and are a leading community theatre company, responsible for premiering many musicals in Hull for the first time, like 2022’s Shrek, 2015’s Sister Act and 2007’s Titanic. They’re bold, they take chances, and watching them on the big stage is worth every penny.

Set during the Great Depression, Crazy for You follows the dreamy, theatre-obsessed Bobby Child (Ben Bailey), who is ordered by his mother to close a theatre in a small Nevada town. There, Bobby falls for headstrong Polly (Elinor Kirby), before he decides to save the theatre, by giving it its first hit in 20 years.

Crazy for You is perhaps slightly lesser known than other ‘classic’ musicals, and that’s because, unlike those historically set during the ’20s and ’30s, which were made in the subsequent two decades, like Singin’ in the Rain and Oklahoma!, it wasn’t actually a fully formed musical until 1992. Based on the 1930 George Gershwin musical, Girl Crazy, it was given a refashioned script by Ken Ludwig, also responsible for such hits as Lend Me a Tenor, as well as new songs from Gershwin’s back catalogue. Crazy for You went on to win numerous Tony and Olivier Awards.

There’s absolutely no indication, as one is watching Crazy for You for the first time, that it wasn’t actually made during Hollywood’s classic era. If you’re a fan of the classics, then you’ll be a fan of this – there’s an abundance of tap dancing, cheeky, wry humour and innocence that will afford you the sort of escapism that all of your favourites do. I’m a huge fan of Singin’ in the Rain in particular and the aspects of that musical that I love – the huge numbers, the farcical, tongue-in-cheek tone – are all here. Such lines as “the wedding’s up to 900 – great you won’t miss me” are funny in a warm way – like a lovely, great big hug and numbers like ‘Shall we Dance’ are reminiscent of Singin in the Rain’s ‘You Were Meant for Me’. 

The talent here is impressive and especially from the principal performers. As Polly and Bobby, Kirby and Bailey are excellent – their voices soar, they move beautifully, whether it’s during solo numbers, with each other or as part of the ensemble. Their acting, too, is top notch. Other stand-outs include Gina Garton as Bobby’s rather monstrous mother and Aaron Bolton’s Moose.

Community theatre and the work they do often isn’t taken seriously and isn’t held up to the same standard as productions that hire professionally trained performers, which is completely fair enough. But Hessle really has pulled off something special here with many aspects of Crazy for You being of a West End standard, with particular emphasis on the principal cast who are fantastic.

Kudos to the show’s director and choreographer, Martin Beaumont, whose hard work and dedication have helped make this show what it is – a triumph. 

[Sam Sims – Theatre reviewer]