Drury Lane Theatre, London – until 6 December 2017
This revival of the classic Broadway musical is a show stopping spectacle, filled with glamour and tap dancing sequences that won’t fail to thrill. If 2017 doesn’t see a rise in people taking tap lessons after seeing this brilliantly choreographed production then I will be very much surprised.
42nd Street is a story of hopes and dreams – despite what life throws your way- as told through the story of young Peggy Sawyer who arrives on Broadway just one face of many in the chorus line of a new musical. But when an unfortunate accident happens – Peggy might just get the break that she has always wanted.
Mark Bramble’s production is glorious to look at from beginning to end, with Douglas W. Schmidt’s extravagant sets used to great effect to highlight Randy Skinner’s choreography – particularly during the ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’ sequence in which a mirror is used to great effect to highlight the different shapes the girls are making on the floor.
Some might find that the story is a little bit bare in places, that exposes minor flaws in Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book – but this is overlooked when considering the show’s undeniable appeal that leaves audiences humming ‘We’re in the Money’ or ’42nd Street’ happily. But what it does offer instead of an in depth story is a fascinating about the brutal nature of working in show business – with references to low wages (thanks to the ongoing Great Depression) and the long hours as shown as Peggy is made to rehearse relentlessly for hours on end.
The production has one of the largest casts I have ever seen on stage and every person in the show works hard to deliver such a physically demanding musical with flair and style and credit to each one of the cast and ensemble for their work. But special mention should go to the brilliant Sheena Easton, who as Dorothy Brock offers by turns a sharp and diva based performance – yet by the end you can’t help but admire her. She also has great comic timing, as evidenced during ‘Shadow Waltz’, which again is cleverly staged.
Other great performances come in the shape of Tom Lister as the brutally honest Julian Marsh with strong vocals as heard during the ’42nd Street Reprise’ for example. His no nonsense manner throughout is commanding with just a hint of cynicism about the business he is in – most obvious when he talks to Peggy about her dreams.
Meanwhile, Clare Halse as Peggy is sweetly charming with absolutely fantastic footwork as the scene in which she dances with some of the girls on the way to lunch proves with no hesitation. Perhaps her character is slightly naive, but it is very naturally done.
There is no faulting the energy or pacing of the production and there are many memorable sequences throughout – not least a spectacular rendition of ’42nd Street’ that is one of the biggest scenes I have seen performed on stage.
42nd Street is very much a welcome addition to the West End and is certainly one of the most dazzling productions to be on stage at the moment. Highly recommend you tap your way down to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane as soon as you can.