Theatre

The current production of 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theater left me breathless! With book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, the newly updated and improved 42nd Street blends different periods of dance from the sixties to the present including some of the best tap dancers (don't call them hoofers) I have seen assembled for one show. 

Telling the age-old fantasy of Broadway performers everywhere as newcomer to New York, Peggy Sawyer, gets her chance at stardom and saving the show when the star falls during rehearsals and breaks her ankle. But this version is sympathetic to both the aging star, Suzzanne Douglas as Dorothy Brock, who has worked a long time and entertained the advances of a sexist producer just to finally have her stage time. Douglas has a beautiful rich, soulful singing voice and is very beautiful in this role. 

Kimberly Immanuel as Peggy Sawyer is also seen more realistically as a starving artist who just wants a break instead of a conniving backstabber out to hurt the leading lady. She is cute and unassuming as the newcomer who really has flying feet. Immanuel does a great job staying likable in her singing and acting and then dazzles the audience with some "out of this world" tap dancing which truly pleases the ears and eyes.  

Gene Weygandt as Julian Marsh, a Broadway director with the power to make stars and break them, also turns in a lovely performance with top-notch vocals, which make the character of Marsh more concerned with the dream world of Broadway life and less scary and sexist than I have seen director portrayals in other productions. 

This spectacularly energetic, colorful and sparkly, yes sparkly, production is directed artfully by Michael Heitzman, with choreography by Jared Grimes, music direction by Roberta Duchak, scenic design by Collette Pollard, costume design by Emilio Sosa, lighting design by Mike Baldassari, sound design by Ray Nardelli, and music arrangements by Everett Bradley.

The set and lighting changes and costume design really do satisfy Chicago audiences’ need to see productions that dazzle just as much as the run on Broadway on every level and leaves the audience energized and happy to have seen this show. 

I want to name the other stars and the ensemble because every single character was fully drawn in this wonderful production with Phillip Attmore as Billy Lawler, Justin Brill as Bert Barry, Donica Lynn as Maggie Jones, Brandon Springman as Pat/Ensemble, Cedric Young as Abner Dillon, Erica Evans as Andy Lee/Ensemble, and Sierra Schnack as Annie/Ensemble. The cast also includes Bret Tuomi, Time Brickey, Lamont Brown, Tristan Bruns, Joe Capstick, Joel Chambers, Andrea Collier, Gabriela Delano, Annie Jo Ermel, Rachel Marie LaPorte, Mandy Modic, Thomas Ortiz, Allie Pizzo, Marisa Reigle, Anthony Sullivan Jr., and Davon Suttles.

Full of fun hits such as “We’re in the Money”, this is a show that doesn’t stop. One of the most memorable scenes I have ever witnessed is a highly complex, mind blowingly and highly difficult six person tap piece that eventually turns into a full cast number worthy of anything I have seen in Broadway productions or at larger theaters in downtown Chicago or New York.

I highly recommend this run of 42nd Street at The Drury Lane for an exciting, feel good, upbeat Holiday spectacle about the joy of showbiz as we used to all envision it unfolding for a young star in the making. 

42nd Street is being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through January 7th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.drurylanetheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

The curtain rises about two and a half feet, revealing the iconic image of fifty or so legs clad in tap shoes of every color of the rainbow.  And with that, the tap dancing spectacle of 42nd Street begins with an exciting, energy-packed dance number as Broadway hopefuls dance their hearts out at the audition for what is destined to be the next great Broadway musical. Set in 1933, famed director Julian Marsh, played by Matthew J Taylor, is preparing the next show stopping musical, Pretty Ladies. A group of energetic young hoofers are joined by the talented, but a bit clumsy, out-of-towner Peggy Sawyer, played by Caitlin Ehlinger, who comes to New York City from her home in Allentown PA for her chance to be a star. This musical within a musical takes a turn when the leading lady breaks her ankle on opening night creating the opportunity for Peggy to take center stage.

 

42nd Street is packed full of tap numbers and some of the most iconic songs of Broadway including “We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway” and of course “42nd Street”. While Peggy becomes the star of Pretty Ladies, the star of this production of 42nd Street was certainly the exceptional tap dancing. With new choreography by Randy Skinner, it maintained some of the classic original choreography known and loved by many while updating some parts to keep things exciting and fresh. The dancing was clean and the sounds strong and clear. The opening song “Audition” and the finale “42nd Street” were spectacular bookends to an overall strong show.

 

The set is fairly simple letting the dancers and amazing costumes take center stage, perfectly setting the scene in 1933 NYC from auditions, to parties, to trains, to the Pretty Ladies musical. Amazingly and with seemingly lighting speed, a cast of over 20 dancers seem to change from rehearsal costumes to show costumes in the blink of an eye. With number after number, the cast reappears on stage in everything from casual rehearsal wear to tails and top hats, to glamorous gowns, to flower costumes and sequined gold dresses. 

 

42nd Street really is an ensemble show, but this production has its standout individual performances as well. Caitlin Ehlinger in the role of Peggy was fantastic. As she takes on her first performance as the star of Pretty Ladies after a mere 48 hours of rehearsal, you can feel her nerves and watch as she finds comfort in the spotlight of the show and transforms into a star. Matthew J Taylor was fantastic as Julian Marsh and proved he was more than just a strong actor when he wowed the audience with “Lullaby of Broadway”.  And Natalia Lepore Hagan, playing the role of Annie, really gave Ehlinger a run for her money in the tap dancing department!

 

36 years after its original opening in 1980, 42nd Street is still a fun and crowd pleasing musical. With outstanding choreography and tap dancing, paired with dazzling costumes, iconic music and the over the top characters you expect in musical theater, this national tour production has the whole package. 42nd Street is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 20th. Get your tickets before the show shuffles off to Buffalo!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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