It’s all Razzle and Dazzle on 42nd Street
42nd Street has all the ingredients and panache of a true Broadway hit musical kicking off with its glorious famed opening scene where the audience catch a glimpse of 48 pairs of dazzling feet tap dancing furiously as the curtain slowly rises, which gives you a real sense of what’s in store… exhilarating stuff!
42nd Street’s stage show is set in New York City and based on the MGM 1933 smash hit film, which went on to become a very successful Broadway show in the 1980’s with Mark Bramble at its helm, Bramble co-wrote the book and continues his long association with the show today in the role as Director
This backstage musical is brimming with classic Hollywood storylines…. big time director discovers unknown, backstage squabbles, jealousy, fading and rising stars and a bit of what everyone wants in the form of love and romance.
Famed Broadway director Julian Marsh (portrayed rather charmingly by Tom Lister, best known for his role by in British soap opera Emmerdale) is opening a new show Pretty Lady on Broadway during the Great Depression in 1933. Auditions for the musical are in full swing, however Peggy, an unknown from small-town Pennsylvania arrives too late and the ensemble has been already been cast, disheartened she turns to leave but fortuitously she bumps into the leading man Billy Lawlor (Ashley Day) who rather takes a fancy to her, which opens all the right doors and her talent as a dancer gets spotted and she goes on to get a job in the ensemble. Phenomenal dancer Clare Halse, whose illustrative tap dancing sends the numbers soaring, plays Peggy; she also gives a sharp and witty performance as a naive, slightly clumsy out of town gal. Katherine Zeta Jones famously played Peggy in 1984 when she was propelled from the chorus into a leading role.
The role of Dorothy Brock has recently been taken over by the much-loved star of stage and screen Bonnie Langford who follows in the footsteps of Sheena Easton. Dorothy is a seasoned star who Marsh is reluctant to cast, despite her fame and powerful voice as she can’t dance, but her wealthy elderly admirer is prepared to invest his cash as long as he gets a look in, so Marsh agrees and her hands are tied, but Dorothy’s heart is elsewhere, which allows her character some to depth to explore beyond the fading star role. Bonnie has a rollicking voice and makes the part her own.
The show builds up to the opening night with the cast members stacking up a bank of good vibrations with some spectacular songs by Al Dubin and Harry Warren including old favourites ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’, ‘We’re in The Money’ and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. The lyrics have not really stood the test of time and some songs are dubiously sexist.
There’s a host of colourful large ensemble dance numbers in this musical which are sure to get you tapping along, it’s all razzle and dazzle with forever changing impressive sets and sparkling costumes in all colours of the rainbow. I have to say I looked on in awe, as during my childhood I would only dare to dream of singing and dancing my way through a host of never-ending theatrical costumes of this magnitude.
This story isn’t exactly surprising, or subtle, and by the second half, not an awful lot has happened in the way of a narrative. However precariously close to opening night, Dorothy has a fall and breaks her ankle and is unable to continue. It’s make or break for Pretty Lady, so Marsh casts Peggy in the leading role and she goes on to smash it!
42nd Street blazes with passion, the direction and choreography are drum-tight and it’s super slick rollercoaster of a show with plenty of Golden Age clichés. This is great West End night out and well worth catching before it finishes on 5th January 2019, when the Theatre Royal Drury Lane closes for refurbishment.
42nd Street is playing at:
Theatre Royal Drury Lane,
London WC2B 5JF
Closes January 5th 2019
To book tickets: From the Box Office