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Crazy For You Review: ‘one of the finest stagings of a musical you could ever hope to see’

Simon Button writes, "Five stars is our maximum rating. I’d give it ten if I could."

By Alastair James

Words: Simon Button; pictures: Johan Persson

If Fred Astaire was still alive he’d surely bow at the feet of Charlie Stemp. The Peckham-born performer has the nimblest of treads, with Astaire’s elegance, Gene Kelly’s athleticism, and a snake-hipped style that is all his own. He’s also a sweet singer and a sophisticated comedian, which combined with his out-of-this-world dance moves makes him the ultimate triple threat.

We know this already because of his star-making turn at Chichester Festival Theatre in Half a Sixpence, which was followed by a well-deserved West End transfer in 2016. He was equally endearing in Hello, Dolly! on Broadway and has been wowing Old Compton Street audiences in Mary Poppins since 2018.

Charlie Stemp (Photo: Johan Persson)

But Crazy for You, for which he’s on a summer hiatus from Poppins in his feted return to Chichester, shines a spotlight on his brilliance like never before. To see him lead the company in the tap-dancing extravaganza that is ‘I Got Rhythm’ is to smile from ear to ear at the sheer joy that only comes from musical comedy at his precision-tooled best.

In fact, I’d venture to say that Stemp is the finest hoofer British theatre has ever produced, and he’s no slouch in the acting and singing departments either.

Charlie Stemp (Photo: Johan Persson)

Hyperbole be damned, I’d also say this is one of the finest stagings of a musical you could ever hope to see. Everybody in it has got rhythm to spare, every joke lands exactly as it should, every big number is a wower, every ballad a belter, and every costume a dazzler.

Director Susan Stroman worked her magic with the Broadway production of The Producers and is no stranger to Crazy for You, having choreographed it in New York and London. By all accounts, the Chichester revival is even more lavish and it’s an absolute laugh riot as Stemp’s Bobby Child is despatched by his wealthy mother to Deadrock, Nevada, to foreclose on a rundown theatre.

Charlie Stemp (Photo: Johan Persson)

Instead, he falls for local girl Polly (Carly Anderson), the only woman in a population of just 37, and hits on a plan to impersonate showman Bela Zangler, put on a show, and save the theatre. You can just imagine the complications that ensue when the real Zangler (Tom Edden) arrives in Deadrock.

Stroman deftly juggles the comedy with a wealth of George and Ira Gershwin tunes. And the cast’s energy levels are through the roof, with Anderson making for a plucky heroine and Edden duetting brilliantly with Stemp during ‘What Causes That?’. The real Zangler and Billy in Zangler mirror each other’s every move with a symmetry that’s spellbinding.

The cast of Crazy For You (Photo: Johan Persson)

Chichester’s best summer shows, like Sweeney Todd and Gypsy as well as the Stemp-starring Half a Sixpence, have all transferred to the West End and I’m crossing everything that Crazy for You does too once Charlie has wrapped Mary Poppins in January.

Five stars is our maximum rating. I’d give it ten if I could.

Rating: 5/5

Crazy for You is at Chichester Festival Theatre until 4 September. For more information visit and for great deals on tickets and shows click here.