It’s a shame what they do to old Broadway musicals these days, overstuffing them with opera stars and making them sound like museum pieces. But a new version of Girl Crazy, the 1930 George and Ira Gershwin musical, makes other recent remakes of Broadway classics, such as the 1988 Show Boat or the 1989 Sitting Pretty, seem lifeless by comparison.
The new Girl Crazy bursts with energy, largely because its producers tried to remain scrupulously faithful to the Gershwin version. Ira Gershwin’s widow, the Library of Congress, and Elektra Nonesuch teamed up for some painstaking research on the original. Then conductor John Mauceri unleashed his orchestra on such immortal tunes as ”I Got Rhythm,” ”Embraceable You,” and ”But Not for Me” with all the zest of Busby Berkeley. In fact, listening to these often- corny tunes is quite like watching a wonderful old movie that is totally out of synch with the world as we know it, but rich with charm.
Girl Crazy is, at heart, rather silly. It tells the story of cowguys and cowgals trying to woo each other in the Mild, Mild West of the 20th century. But the singers, who include Lorna Luft, David Carroll, and Judy Blazer, play it straight and for all they’re worth. When Blazer sings, ”Come on, let’s glorify love!/Ding dang it! You’ll shout ‘encore’ if I love,” you can almost believe that true love is possible. And isn’t that exhilarating tingle exactly what we want from an old Broadway musical? A