Stacey Todd Holt one of the guest Equity players in Pioneer Theatre Company's season closer, "Crazy for You" - is way too young to have danced in one of George Gershwin's splashy Broadway hits.
That bygone era ended in the mid-1930s.But when Holt was growing up outside of Atlanta, he got hooked on Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies (watching them on the American Movie Classics cable TV station). He began taking tap-dancing lessons at the age of 7.
Next week, Salt Lake theatergoers will see him dance and sing his way through what has been touted as the "new" Gershwin musical. ("Crazy for You" runs April 29-May 16 on the Lees Main Stage of the newly named Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre.)
The dancing sequences (and there are plenty) are being choreographed by one of the Wasatch Front's premier hoofers - James C. Christian, who is supervising an ensemble of 20 nimble-footed performers (10 men, 10 women).
"They're coming along great," said Christian during an interview via his cellular phone while en route to a Pioneer Theatre Company rehearsal.
"The cast could not be better to work with, and it seems to be that everyone is just having a spectacular time. The chemistry between Stacey and Nancy (Anderson) is, well, to paraphrase one of Mr. Gershwin's songs, `Who could ask for anything more?' It's been sheer pleasure to work with everybody."
Holt is playing Bobby (opposite Anderson's Polly), a role he's already familiar with after spending three years in the show - half that time with the national tour and the other half in the Broadway company, where he understudied the role of Bobby and served as swing and dance captain.
"Everybody knows the old boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-the-girl-back story," Holt said. "But everytime you see it you still fall for it. It's worked for so many years."
Holt noted that "Crazy for You" is loosely based on Gershwin's 1930 hit, "Girl Crazy." It has a new book, written by Ken Ludwig (PTC patrons should remember his hilarious farce, "Lend Me a Tenor"). The story, about a New York lad packed off to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on an aging theater, is built around 16 timeless Gershwin tunes - some from "Girl Crazy' and some from several other shows.
Holt gets to sing such songs as "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "I Can't Be Bothered Now."
("Girl Crazy" itself premiered in 1930 and is notable not only for showcasing 19-year-old Ginger Rogers but for the Broadway debut of Ethel Merman, who made theatrical history with "I Got Rhythm.")
Holt said he is enjoying working with Christian. Some productions stick with the Broadway show's original choreography (Susan Stroman, with whom Holt is working on another project, did the New York version of "Crazy for You").
"But Gershwin's music lends itself to different dance arrangements. The original choreography was inventive, but Jim has been very creative and the dancing is great fun," said Holt, adding that the show's director, John Caywood, has nicknamed Christian "Mr. Happy."
"He's so easy to get along with and he's never in a bad mood. The worst problems will come up and he'll just fix them and move on.
"I like new challenges and learning new stuff," he added.
Holt was also impressed with the local talent. The ensemble is about two-thirds local, with the rest coming from New York.
Christian began rehearsing the tap numbers with the locally recruited dancers about a week before the New York cast members got to town.
"When I got here, they were already doing the dances and I was so amazed to see all these different physical types just going to town dancing," Holt said.
He predicted the audience will go nuts over the Act One finale, "I Got Rhythm."
According to Christian, "most people in their lifetime, who see this show, will never see this many solid tap dancers together again. We get into these tap routines, and it's exciting."
Christian added that the score for "Crazy for You" is a mix of Gershwin standards and a few of his more obscure pieces.
"It may be the first time people have heard some of them, but they're a lot of fun."
- THE CAST: Holt previously appeared in PTC's productions of "The 1940s Radio Hour" and "A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine." Costar Nancy Anderson was in PTC's 1995 production of "The Secret Garden." Chris Mixon, another guest Equity artist, has been in several previous PTC shows, including "The Little Shop of Horrors," "Noises Off" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Local Equity players include Max Robinson, Margaret Crowell, Anne Stewart Mark, Mearle Marsh, Richard Mathews and Robert Peterson.
Non-equity performers from the region include Teresa Bramwell, Bruce A. Bredeson, Jared Brubaker, Jeni Carver, Adam Cates, David Glaittli, Timothy Letheic Goins, Erin Hiatt, Justin Ivie, Darci Monson and Melissa Pond.
- PERFORMANCES will be Mondays-Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 & 8 p.m., April 29-May 16. All seats are reserved. Tickets range from $15 to $36. Group discounts (20 or more) are available. There are also discounts for University of Utah students, including $4 for "student rush" tickets for any remaining seats 30 minutes prior to curtain. For reservations, call 581-6961.