42nd Street … be still my dancing feet

MUSIC OWL AWARD: 2nd – choreography

When I went: 22 May 2017

Music Owl Hoot rating: 5/5

Location: Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London

Performers: Sheena Easton (Dorothy Brock), Tom Lister (Julian Marsh), Clare Halse (Peggy Sawyer), Stuart Neal (Billy Lawlor), Jasna Ivir (Maggie Jones), Christopher Howell (Bert Barry), Norman Bowman (Pat Denning), Graeme Henderson (Andy Lee), Bruce Montague (Abner Dillon), Marc McKerracher (Mac/Doc/Thug), Emma Caffrey (Annie), Clare Rickard (Phyllis), Ella Martine (Lorraine), Paul Knight (Oscar)

Creative team: Mark Bramble (director/co-author), Michael Stewart (co-adaptor), Harry Warren & Al Dubin (music and lyrics), Gower Champion (original director and choreographer), Randy Skinner (choreographer), Douglas W Schmidt (set designer), Roger Kirk (costume designer), Jae Alexander (musical director), Michael Linnit, Michael Grade (producers), Dr Johnny Hon (executive producer)

Approximate price: £75

Special points: Tap dancing

Best bit: Forty-Second Street

If I could change one thing: Less abrupt ending


The musical:

42nd Street is one of those classic musicals set a long time ago (1933) with some meta elements – i.e. it refers to life on Broadway within itself and is based on a 1932 novel and 1933 screenplay. However, unlike some other ‘older’ musicals, it still feels fresh, fun and relevant.

From the outset, the choreography and sense of joy in the songs is stunning. It really made me want to learn how to tap dance – not that anything less than decades of training would get me to the impossibly high standard set by the whole cast.

The plot follows Peggy Sawyer’s quest to star on Broadway and the process of putting on a new musical (‘Pretty Lady’) under an acclaimed director (Julian Walsh). There are hints of romance but the strongest thread follows the process of putting on the show itself. The ending is a little abrupt, and there are some slightly implausible elements in the plot (instead of bringing in Peggy to replace Dorothy, wouldn’t they have hired an understudy ?!) but the whole show feels pacy and there is never a dull moment.

This performance:

Sheena Easton is one of the leading actresses in this show, playing veteran Broadway star Dorothy Brock. The fact that Dorothy’s character is allegedly not a dancer allows her to concentrate on the songs, and Sheena Easton’s voice sounded warm and beautiful. The dancing elements are led by Clare Halse’s effervescent Peggy Sawyer and Stuart Neal’s upbeat Billy Lawlor. Every number is impressive but none more so than the Act 2’s Forty-Second Street, in which the cast actually tap dance up stairs while singing (!).

I had previously seen Norman Bowman (playing Dorothy’s paramour Pat Denning) as the hard-done-by Michael in Murder Ballad, and Clare Rickard (playing Phyllis) as Jellylorum in Cats, and both were equally impressive here. Tom Lister as director Julian Marsh also exudes charisma and confidence and is a very strong singer.

This show was so spectacular and impressive that I would definitely see it again, and would recommend it wholeheartedly if you are a musical fan.



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