Open Air, Regent's Park, London
If this enjoyable 1992 musical has a slightly synthetic feel, it is hardly surprising. Ken Ludwig has rewritten the book of a 1930 Gershwin musical, Girl Crazy, but retained only five of the original 19 numbers and made up the deficit by raiding the George and Ira Gershwin back-catalogue. The result is a buoyant evening, but one that never feels wholly authentic.
Ludwig ditched the original book, about a city slicker who creates a dude ranch in Arizona, on the grounds it was unrevivable. He has, however, replaced it with one that is, if anything, even dottier. In the new version, we see a New York showbiz aspirant desperately trying to restore a defunct theatre in the middle of the Nevada desert. Even the attempt to shoehorn a string of Gershwin classics into the storyline creates bizarre moments. You can't help wondering why Polly, the feisty tomboy the hero falls for, should suddenly launch into a famously plangent number in which she pleads for Someone to Watch Over Me. Stranger still is the interpolation of a song called Stiff Upper Lip, in which the Nevada cowboys improbably parody the starchy manners of the English upper crust.
But, even if the show makes little sense, it is put across with tremendous verve in Timothy Sheader's production. Stephen Mear's choreography is more than a match for Susan Stroman's in the original, and reaches a joyous peak in I Got Rhythm in which the ensemble taps out the tune on tin cans, bath tubs and chamber pots: it also helps that Mear has assembled the best-looking chorus line I've seen on the London stage in a long time. Peter McKintosh's revolving sets and spangly costumes add to the gaiety, and Sean Palmer and Clare Foster as the sparring hero and heroine perform with charm and gusto. It's all very jolly but, if you want proof that Girl Crazy can still work, simply listen to the excellent John Mauceri 1990 recording.