'The world is a mess! With politics and taxes, and people grinding axes/There's no happiness.' So goes a line from a Gershwin number written in 1936, when America was still feeling the savage pinch of the Great Depression.
The solution? 'Slap that bass, slap it till it's dizzy' – and in our own grim times, that might be just the kind of daffy, escapist and irresistibly cheering advice we require from this joyous musical comedy, in a bubblegum-bright production by Timothy Sheader, transferred from the Open Air Theatre.
Concocted in 1991 by Ken Ludwig from the Gershwins' 'Girl Crazy' and their back catalogue of classic songs, the show is shamelessly slight, packed with plot implausibilities and showbiz schtick.
Stagestruck banker Bobby Child (Sean Palmer), caught between his termagant mama and impatient fiancee, is despatched to the Nevada desert to foreclose on an ailing theatre; instead, he falls in love with the owner's spunky daughter Polly (Clare Foster) and hatches a plan to impersonate a successful Broadway impresario, Zangler, borrow his bevy of leggy chorines, and save the theatre by putting on a show right there. All sorts of silly shenanigans naturally ensue, including some nifty comic confusions when the real Zangler shows up.
What holds it all together is the exuberant song and dance, and the choreography by Stephen Mear, which nods to Susan Stroman's 1990s version, leaves you breathless with delight. There are high kicks, twinkle-toed tap and unflaggingly witty use of props, from trilling telephones atop showgirls' heads to cowboys toting prickly cacti and, in 'I Got Rhythm', a xylophone constructed from a row of chamber pots.
Foster and Palmer make a beguiling couple, with an easy charm and a pair of fine voices. And there's eye-catching support from Kim Medcalf as Bobby's disgruntled betrothed and David Burt as the flamboyant Zangler, a big softie beneath his skunk-like striped coiffure and formidable demeanour. Yes, the story is unabashed hokum; but in such grey days as these, it beams, rainbow-bright.