Tuesday, April 23

Crazy For You – Hessle Theatre

We theatre reviewers are a spoilt bunch. Any productions we are invited to watch have been honed and polished to perfection – bugs given the boot and glitches dealt with, ensuring our view of proceedings isn’t hampered by such pesky events.

With that in mind, I was intrigued to receive an invitation from Hessle Theatre Company to watch a “full run of the show in an open rehearsal”, with backing tracks but without scenery and costumes, for a production of Crazy For You, a show they will grace the Hull New Theatre stage with later this month.

So, Sunday afternoon saw me and my regular theatre buddy, my sister Chrissy, head for Tranby School, in Anlaby, near Hull, to experience my first ever rehearsal.

If it was any other company but the Hessle Theatre, I would have thought they had lost their marbles. But past experience of watching this company in action has shown me that their multi-talented thespians have no doubts whatsoever about their on-stage abilities – and with good reason; they are more professional than the professionals.

I speak from experience, having had no hesitation in awarding them top marks in my 2022 review of their production of Shrek The Musical, plus, Made In Dagenham and Our House to name just three.

Roles were reversed on Sunday, as our seats were actually on the stage, while the cast performed in the hall below us.

John Drury, the theatre company’s vice chair, kindly led us to our viewpoint, regaling us with very interesting facts about this production and the company in general.

I was amazed to learn the cost of putting on such a show would be around £53,000, which obviously takes a huge amount of planning and fund-raising year round. That’s why it is so important to get the word out of how full of talent this small, local company is and how hard each and every one of them – on and back of stage – work to ensure theatregoers enjoy their productions as much as those taking part.

The event I was privy to watch is the first time Hessle Theatre Company has rehearsed in front of the public and a little bird told me cast members were nervous at the prospect. No bad thing.

John explained this was not a dress rehearsal, but just the first full run through. All the costumes, props, orchestra etc would not be available to them until the day before the Hull New Theatre run, which starts on Tuesday, March 19th 2024 and runs until Saturday, 23rd.

No microphones were to be used in this rehearsal, but we would be hearing the sound effects that would be in the show proper. And I absolutely loved the backstage hustle and bustle normally never seen by an audience. Watching the cast warm up beforehand was an experience in itself, with musical director Sarah Lucy Penny ensuring everyone jiggled, wiggled, oohed and aahed in all the right places.

Crazy For You is a hit Broadway musical, set in the 1930s, featuring glorious songs by George and Ira Gershwin – I Got Rhythm, Embraceable You and Someone To Watch Over Me, being just a selection.

The story centres around Bobby (tap dancing whizz Ben Bailey), whose bank-owning mother sends him to Dead Rock, Nevada to close an abandoned theatre owned by Everett (Kevin Hickson) and his daughter Polly (the multi-talented Elinor Kirby), who are behind with the mortgage payments.

What follows is a case of mistaken (or maybe on purpose) identity resulting in fun, frolics, all-dancing, all-singing shenanigans.

I will be reviewing Crazy For You at the Hull New Theatre, so won’t go into much storyline detail here, but, after watching this talented crew rehearse for a few hours I can’t wait to see them in all their glorious, be-costumed splendour.

Even without microphones all singing voices were amazing and the choreography had some really unique actions, some involving thick ropes and pick axes!

The two leads, Bailey and Kirby, kindly took time out to chat to me after the rehearsal, and it was a thrill to have our photographs taken with the full cast and crew. A once in a lifetime experience.

Don’t let the world “amateur” put you off buying tickets for Crazy For You; this group are far from amateur in my book. I wish them every success.

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Witnessed: 3rd March 2024

*Crazy For You, presented by the Hessle Theatre Company runs at the Hull New Theatre from Tuesday, March 19th to Saturday March 23rd. Tickets cost from £13.50. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk to book.

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