Susan Stroman on Dance & CRAZY FOR YOU®

Susan Stroman is the recipient of five Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, eight Outer Critics Circle Awards, a record five Astaire Awards and the George Abbot Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theatre.  Along the way she has had the opportunity to direct and/or choreograph fifteen Broadway shows, beginning with the 1992 Gershwin musical comedy CRAZY FOR YOU®.  In today’s post she discusses how dance becomes a part of the narrative in CRAZY FOR YOU®:   

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 CRAZY FOR YOU is about that passion you have for something you love – whether it be a young couple falling in love as they waltz under the desert stars, or a small town rediscovering a long lost sense of pride and community. Bobby Child loves to dance. During the show, his love for dance turns into something greater – his love for Polly and his love for renewing life in a dying town.

Part of the joy in creating CRAZY FOR YOU was the love of the theater all the collaborators shared, and our passion to bring this show to the stage. It was a great association between all of the creative team, designers and producers. We all took CRAZY FOR YOU to heart and its memory fills us all with a great sense of pride and joy.

The choreography in CRAZY FOR YOU depicts the time period of New York in the 1930’s. This time period is rich with dance styles. There is tap dancing, ballroom dancing, comic dancing and acrobats. The girls in the show hit certain poses in their choreography that reflect the architecture of the period.

The plot of an Easterner going West helps with the style. The characters from New York dance with more style, grace, and posture than the characters from Deadrock, Nevada. The characters from the West dance closer to the ground and wilder.

The characters in CRAZY FOR YOU all dance with emotion, and every step helps tell the story. Each number propels the plot forward. The character Bobby Child helps all the townsfolk find their inner rhythm in “Slap That Bass”. Then, at the end of Act One when he feels he has failed the town, Polly and the townsfolk sing “I Got Rhythm” and show Bobby Child how he has given them all a great gift – rhythm, music, and a partner.

In “Shall We Dance”, Bobby and Polly fall in love. The dance starts out flirtatious and then ends up very romantic. The tempo and meter of the beautiful melody helps tell the story. When Bobby and Polly are being coy and shy, the rhythm is played in a soft shoe; when they are chasing each other it is played in a fast 2/2 time; when they are very romantic it is played as a grand waltz. We really see them fall in love by using choreography and beautiful Gershwin music.

I will never forget teaching the dancers how to use a pickaxe or a mining pan! It was enormous fun experimenting and dancing with all the tools that one might find in a hardware store. Each day of my original rehearsal was filled with excitement and energy, and I’m sure that your group will find your rehearsal to be the same.

How wonderful it is that CRAZY FOR YOU is available for a whole new generation of theatregoers. Maybe a young audience member will be lucky enough to find his or her passion! And to quote Bobby Childs, “Nice work if you can get it!”

-Susan Stroman