Among the highlights of Winter Park Playhouse's "Crazy for Gershwin": Caila Carter and Johnathan Lee Iverson sing selections from "Porgy and Bess."

“Crazy for Gershwin” is a homegrown production; the salute to the incomparable songwriting brothers was conceived by the Winter Park Playhouse’s Roy Alan, Christopher Leavy and Todd Allen Long.

So maybe that’s why everything about the show just feels so right for the Playhouse. “Crazy for Gershwin” is the kind of zippy little revue the Playhouse can do so well — and this time does exceptionally well.

No characters, no story line, just two hours of musical bliss with interesting information and some of the best songs ever written.

Tay Anderson gets to have fun in multiple numbers in "Crazy for Gershwin" at Winter Park Playhouse.
Tay Anderson gets to have fun in multiple numbers in “Crazy for Gershwin” at Winter Park Playhouse. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

 

Without defined roles to inhabit, the performers have to channel their own personalities through the music, and director Alan has found a crackerjack cast to do just that.

The show also seems written to be performer-friendly. Often in revues such as this, each actor has a moment to shine. But here, the performers have moment after moment after moment to win over the audience. They’re helped, of course, by Ira Gershwin’s clever and funnier than you may remember lyrics, as well as George’s catchy melodies.

But, most impressively, these performers excel not only musically but at comedy, with even a bit of heartstring-tugging thrown in.

Anastasia Remoundos and Russell Stephens don't think they'll "fall in love today" during a musical number in "Crazy for Gershwin" at Winter Park Playhouse.
Anastasia Remoundos and Russell Stephens don’t think they’ll “fall in love today” during a musical number in “Crazy for Gershwin” at Winter Park Playhouse. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

 

No one exemplifies that versatility better than Anastasia Remoundos, who turns a performance of “But Not for Me” into a full-blown tragic tale before our eyes. But she’s also adept at the frisky comic numbers, as she proves in a sprightly “I Don’t Think I’ll Fall in Love Today,” alongside Russell Stephens — no slouch in the comedy or vocal department himself.

Johnathan Lee Iverson turns on the comic charm in a kicky “I Got Rhythm,” but he and Caila Carter really shine in two songs from “Porgy and Bess.” Iverson fills “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with a wink-wink bonhomie, while Carter provides a sultry “Summertime,” with a percolating Latin beat coming from music director Leavy and his ensemble.

The final two cast members contribute their own brand of magic: Tay Anderson doesn’t hold back as she clowns around while bemoaning “Vodka” or turns “Embraceable You” into a silly seduction. And Adam T. Biner, so good as a comic goofball in the Playhouse’s recent “Five Course Love,” is a scene stealer here as … well, a comic goofball. But a comic goofball who taps!

Adam T. Biner is a comic goofball with tappin' feet in "Crazy for Gershwin" at Winter Park Playhouse.
Adam T. Biner is a comic goofball with tappin’ feet in “Crazy for Gershwin” at Winter Park Playhouse. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

 

Alan not only gets the pacing and ratio of humor to serious musicianship right throughout the show, his choreography adds a whole new dimension to the fun. Yes, it’s old-fashioned song-and-dance. Yes, it’s glorious.

The other theatrical elements do their part — Monica Titus’s costumes are a patchwork of color and pattern that joyously work together, CJ Sikorski’s musical-motif scenic design is simple and effective. But it’s the music at the heart of all this — with Leavy’s delightfully surprising arrangements — that’s the true star of the show.

‘Crazy for Gershwin’

  • Length: 2:05, including intermission
  • COVID-19 info: Mandatory masks for audience, performers wear clear acrylic masks
  • Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711 N. Orange Ave. in Winter Park
  • When: Through Aug. 22
  • Cost: $36-$45 (student, military, entertainment-industry professional discounts)
  • Info: winterparkplayhouse.org

Find me on Twitter @matt_on_arts, facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or email me at mpalm@orlandosentinel.com. Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to orlandosentinel.com/arts.

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