By Alex Owens
It’s been 20 years since Peter Pan Junior Theater (PPJT) performed “Crazy For You,” the 1990s-era Broadway musical based on several classic Gershwin songs, but La Mesans who saw the show went, er, “crazy” for it.
Now this noteworthy show is coming back for five performances April 10-13 at the Joan B. Kroc Salvation Army Theater.
PPJT director Dr. Mark Arapostathis understands the reasons people have sung the play’s praises — and it comes down to the tunes.
“The appeal of the show is based on music,” Dr. Arapostathis, who is also La Mesa’s mayor, said. “People left the production saying that was the best show and they’ve brought that up in the two decades since then. I think it’s because of the music. It’s Gershwin and people have some familiarity with it.”
The actual play, “Crazy For You,” is an adapted version of a 1920s-era musical “Girl Crazy” with a new book written for modern audiences.
Arapostathis wants each show PPJT puts on to be educational for the 90-plus performers in the show. This time around, he wanted to make them familiar with songwriters George and Ira Gershwin, whose work still resonates with people nearly a hundred years later.
“Crazy For You” includes dancing girls, fighting cowboys, mistaken identities and, a challenge for the young actors — kissing scenes.
“For that, we’ll do stage kissing where they’ll conceal the kiss so you can’t actually see it,” Arapostathis said.
Many of the young actors preferred the fight scenes, which use special bottles designed to break safely on stage.
“I made 45 bottles — two hours for each one,” Arapostathis said. “The challenge has been getting the kids to stay in character and not look like they’re anticipating the battle. They’re getting better at it.”
Another challenge: Building a whole new set as well as props for the show. Typically, PPJT tries to recycle 85 percent of previous sets and costumes into each new production, but the previous sets for “Crazy For You” were rented and currently unavailable.
That means parent volunteers have spent weekends creating the new sets and costumes since September.
Performances for “Crazy For You” begin at 7 p.m. for the evening shows, 1 p.m. for Saturday’s matinee. In addition, Thursday night is “Alumni Night,” where former PPJT cast members are encouraged to attend. All performances take place at the Ray and Joan Kroc Salvation Army Performing Arts Center, 6611 University Ave., San Diego.
This year, the company is also inviting people who want to support the program but can’t make a show to purchase tickets that will be donated to families who might not otherwise be able to see the show.
For more information, visit ppjt.org.
— Alex Owens is a La Mesa-based freelance writer.