Fletcher Young, performing in a musical Monday and Tuesday, has fond memories of Youngstown.
"Crazy for You" actor Fletcher Young says he can't wait to get back to Youngstown.
Coming through town a few years ago in a touring production of "Music Man," the New York City native discovered the Butler Institute of American Art, an unexpected oasis of culture in the oftentimes nondescript and less-cultured Midwest.
"I really loved the art museum there," Fletcher said. "I found there was a lot more culture there than I expected. You just find when you are traveling on the road, a lot of the bigger cities get all of the publicity and I was like 'Wow.'"
He added, "My point is I really think the audience there will appreciate ('Crazy for You') because obviously you guys appreciate art." The musical comes through Youngstown on Monday and Tuesday at the Powers Auditorium.
Forgive Fletcher if he comes across as a bit, well, snobbish. Considering early in his phone call he confuses his location -- at first, he says he's in Reading, Pa., only to discover a few minutes later he was slightly farther east in Providence, R.I. -- remembering Youngstown out of dozens upon dozens of cities that run together is somewhat notable. Such is the life of a touring actor in a touring production.
Early start in show business
With a clown-performing father, who was an original Howdy Doody player from the original "Howdy Doody Show," Young first entered show business at age 4 when he dressed up as an elf for the 1964 World's Fair. Today when performing in "Crazy for You," he gets to dress up in a penguin suit portraying the tuxedo-wearing, Florenz Ziegfried-inspired (of Ziegfried Follies fame) character of Bela Zangler.
"Instead of the Ziegfried Follies we have the Zangler Follies," Fletcher said. "He's a Broadway impresario and very flamboyant and puts on big extravaganzas, so that's the basis of his character. And the hardest part is, he speaks with a Hungarian accent. So I had to try to find a way to do the role without sounding like Dracula."
The role is a fresh change for Fletcher, who says for decades he has more often than not been cast as the villain, which invariably leaves him "usually covered in dirt and chased by dogs," he said. Prior roles include playing the evil Rooster in "Annie" and a Pirate in "Peter Pan."
As for "Crazy For You," it was first produced in the 1930s under the name "Girl Crazy" and it was an instant hit. Written by George and Ira Gershwin as a vehicle for Ethel Merman, the musical was later made into a film starring Judy Garland before it was adapted in 1992 into "Crazy For You." The revival of sorts went on to win numerous Tony Awards, while simultaneously re-igniting America's love affair with the works of the Gershwins.
"I think it was written as sort of a show to cheer up audiences during the great Depression and I think regardless of what political slant you are in, there is no doubt we could all use some cheering up," Fletcher said. "So I think of it as a show for the new Depression."
Including such timeless Gershwin classics as "Embraceable You," "I Got Rhythm" and "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Crazy for You" has a heartbeat of its own that differs from most productions.
"As I've often said, the music is the star of the show," Fletcher said. "It's Gershwin, so if you upstage the music you're doing something terribly wrong."