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STAGE REVIEWS : ‘GIRL CRAZY’

Sebastian’s West does an admirable job with “Girl Crazy,” giving this Western musical a revue-type treatment that emphasizes the memorable Gershwin score and looks past the faults of the nonsensical book.

Happily, director Jim Manley and choreographer Donna Berg and their hardy cast do everything in their power to keep the music center stage, devoting an engaging energy to sparkling renditions of such evergreens as “Strike Up the Band” and “Embraceable You.” It is evident, however, that the players are struggling mightily with the ridiculous story of an ex-cowboy star who is wooing the local mail girl and contending with various other characters who have their own designs on him. It’s a disjointed show--cowboys appear out of nowhere to sing back-up, and gangsters seem to have dropped in from another musical. Further, the action seems to be taking place in some indefinite past, as there is little consistency in the costumes and speech.

The confident cast is led by George Champion as the movie star turned rancher and Katie Jensen as the mail girl. They make a good romantic team, and they also manage to get around the contrivances of the plot. Champion’s charming grin and honest approach to the role serve him well, and Jensen, despite a few uncertain moments and a voice that is sometimes inaudible, is sweet and appealing.

But this “Girl Crazy” really belongs to Beth Hansen, who is the perfect comic lead as nightclub singer Frisco Kate. Although her superb timing occasionally suffers with director Manley’s pacing, she is warm and restrained, and she delivers her rousing numbers with flash and precision.

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As the gangsters, Mark Rydzynski and Marc Christopher make all their moments count, especially in their rollicking “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.” As Kate’s ex-husband and accompanist, Joe Heintzelman is initially a bit off-kilter in presenting his comic character, but he makes up for lost time with his utterly woebegone rendition of “But Not for Me,” sung with Jensen. Jeff Paul also makes the most of his role as a snakelike movie maker.

“Girl Crazy” continues through July 21 at Sebastian’s West Dinner Playhouse, 140 Avenida Pico, San Clemente. Information is available at (714) 492-9950.


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