by Tony Schillaci & Don Church
photo by Diane Sobolewski
Tony Award-winning “42d Street” is the golden chestnut of backstage musicals on film and on stage. It has been a perennial favorite of audiences from the 1933 Warner Brothers movie to the original Broadway stage production that opened in 1980 and ran for ten years.
This revival, produced by Michael P. Price for Goodspeed Musicals, has a polish that keeps this American-musical classic fresh from start to final curtain.
One song asks the musical question: “What do you go for – go to a show for”? This exuberant and bouncy production has an answer – you go for the dazzling ensemble of brilliant Broadway babies, for the familiar hit score, and to tap your toes under your seat while the cast dances and sings showstopper after showstopper.
Four numbers deserve the term extravaganza: “Dames,” “We’re In The Money,” “Lullaby Of Broadway” and the title song “Forty-Second Street.” The entire cast appears in these numbers and the result is an explosion of fun onstage. The dances are choreographed by Rick Conant who has a glowing resume, including Goodspeed’s popular “Singin’ in the Rain.” One critic many years ago called the sight of a huge cast on the tiny Goodspeed stage “like a cast of thousands tapping on a picnic table.” That vision is what makes this production of “42nd Street” a fantastic spectacular.
The music is by Harry Warren, three-time Oscar-winning composer, lyricist (“Lullaby of Broadway”), and winner of the first gold record in history. The lyrics are by Al Dubin, a member of the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In addition to “42d Street” he wrote other Broadway shows, including “Sugar Babies,” a Tony Award-nominee for Best Score.
Heading up this tune-fest are two gorgeous and glorious youngsters, Kristen Martin as Peggy Sawyer, and Austin Miller as Billy Lawlor, with their flirty song “Young and Healthy”. Kristen and Austin not only sing beautifully throughout the show, but wow – can they dance! These two troupers deserve the sentiments of a classic line in the show – “you’re going out there a youngster, but you’re coming back a star!”
In an ensemble cast like this there are no “stars”, but it should be said that each and every “kid” onstage is a shining Broadway light. From the big vocals of Laurie Wells as Dorothy Brock to the take-charge-of-the-stage magic of Dorothy Stanley as Maggie Jones, the cast sparkles.
Dorothy (Maggie) leads the chorus girls in “Go Into Your Dance,” and joins delightful veteran actor Dale Hensley as Bert and comically brash Jenifer Foote as Annie in the suggestively funny “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” accompanied by a bevy of scantily clad sleeping-car cuties.
Also deserving special notice is James Lloyd Reynolds as the task-master impresario Julian Marsh; Tim Falter as the hard-working, hard-tapping Andy; and ensemble gypsy Kristyn Pope whose stage presence, smile, and expressive eyes prove that she knows how to connect with an audience. But for lack of space we would name each ensemble member – they’ve all got that much talent!
Michael O’Flaherty is the resident music director at Goodspeed Musicals. He’s also a conductor, composer, orchestrator, arranger, and – you guessed it – a musician. He supervises the music for this show, while the orchestra follows conductor William J. Thomas from the hummable overture to the rousing curtain-call finale.
The scenery by Howard Jones is colorfully effective in the production numbers, while costume design by David H. Lawrence dazzles, especially in “Dames” and “You’re In The Money”. Lighting design by Charlie Morrison helps to add to the feeling of the depression-era timeline. The book was written by Michael Stewart, based on the movie. The story takes place during the depression and many of the lines, although dated, still ring true and get some good laughs that come out of the reality of today’s money woes. The show was directed by Ray Roderick, who also directed Goodspeed’s “Singin’ In The Rain.
“42nd Street” runs through Saturday, July 4th at the Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main Street. Rt. 82, East Haddam, CT. Tickets are $26 – $69.50. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays. For detailed schedule and tickets call 860.873.8668, seven days a week, or online at www.goodspeed.org. It’s a happy-tappy musical classic that’ll make you feel good. Go see it!