Abby Bowles-Votaw has had a long history with Stars Theatre Restaurant, starting when she played an orphan in "Annie" at age 10 for the shows at the Harvey Auditorium. But for "Crazy For You," she stepped behind the scenes for the first time at Stars.
"Having been given the great task of directing was such a crazy thought for me at first, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience," the director wrote in an email. "The cast that (choreographer Jennifer) Skiby and I put together is probably the hardest working cast I have ever been a part of, both as an actor and director."
When Bowles-Votaw heard that the theater had chosen the tribute to the music of Gershwin as the season closer, she tapped Skiby, who along with being a close friend is also a phenomenal dancer and choreographer, to bring it to life.
The musical opens with New York banker Bobby Child (Tevin Joslen), who heads to Deadrock, Nev., to foreclose on a rundown theater. He hits a snag when he falls for Polly Baker, the theater owner’s spunky daughter (Tessa Ogles). Since the feelings aren't mutual, Child vows to use his wiles to win her heart and save the theater.
This comedic romance is set to memorable Gershwin tunes including “I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Embraceable You,” “But Not for Me" and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
"Having been in this show before as an actor, I have always loved the music of Gershwin and the songs that are incorporated into the show," Bowles-Votaw said. "Also, tap dancing is near and dear to my heart and this show is chock-full of it."
She and Skiby determined early on that dance was key to their vision for the show.
"The choreography is definitely the basis of the show. ... Skiby has outdone herself with 14 huge dance numbers (each number is over four-plus minutes). We both made sure that tap dancing was the main form of dance to be highlighted, but with a twist. We took the cast and pushed them, rehearsing over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays and their hard work has definitely paid off."
With a cast that also includes Kelsea Johnson, Brian Purcell, Jared Cantrell, Paula Einstein, Kevin McDonald, Randy Jelmini and Jolie Roberson, Bowles-Votaw said she was happy to have performers known for performing at other theaters in town to come together for "Crazy."
"It's wonderful to see every 'home' theater from Bakersfield represented on that stage with this company," she said. "I would love to see the theaters in Bakersfield work more closely together and this cast is definitely a positive step in that direction."
Featuring numbers that will make you want to dance and memorable music, the show is a good one to beat the winter blues, Bowles-Votaw said.
"'Crazy For You' is a show full of happiness, laughter and just plain fun. In the world we live in today, I definitely feel we can never have enough of those particular qualities.
"My hope is the audience leaves with a full heart and can exude and share happiness with people around them. Gershwin definitely has a way of making you feel light on your feet with a full heart."