Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London
Guest reviewer: Katie Merritt
It always feels like a treat stepping in to the palatial surroundings of the Drury Lane Theatre. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden after work, I wait to watch the much-anticipated revival of 42nd Street.
42nd Street celebrates old Broadway, glitz and glam. It was originally adapted from an old Warner Brothers film in 1933 and was brought to the stage by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble in 1980. It is that duo that has revived it again for the boards at Drury Lane, and a revival it is!
There is a buzz of excitement during the overture; the audience know what is about to happen. In the opening moments, accompanied by riotous applause from the audience, the curtain unlocks an explosion of colour and energy from a chorus line of dancers, performing a bulletproof tap routine, brilliantly choreographed by Randy Skinner. In fact, this was a big part of the show, so if you like chorus lines of dancers, executing tricky and impressive tap routines, this show is for you!
The show is set in 1933, where we meet a group of ‘Young and Beautiful’ theatre hopefuls, who want a part in Broadway’s newest show, directed by the ruthless Julian Marsh, played by Tom Lister. Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), is fresh off the bus from Chicago, looking for her big break. She is brutally rebuffed, until the leading lady Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton), breaks her leg and Peggy has a shot at the big time!
This production has some seriously spectacular moments. Not only does the chorus line perform dance routines with military precision, but the audience interaction and theatrical tricks Bramble has employed, amaze us, and breathe new life in to the work. By using modern theatre techniques and design, he has brought the production in to the 21st century.
Spectacular highlights for me were, the clever use of silhouette during the dance routines, a huge mirror that descended from the ceiling giving us a 360-degree view of the dancers, and huge coins that were rolled out and used during the popular number ‘We’re in the money’. The set, lighting and costume, designed by Douglas W. Schmidt, Peter Mumford and Roger Kirk, enhanced the action on stage, aiding the creation of many comic and spectacular moments.
There are good performances all round, particularly from the comedy duo, Maggie Jones, played by Jasna Ivir, and Bert Barry, played by Christopher Howell, who both give spirited and engaging performances. However the shows biggest merit is also its flaw. The show is glitz and glam and sparkly fun, but the storyline is fundamentally weak and the characters are wooden and 2 dimensional. Is it possible to have both emotional depth and extravagant amounts of jazz hands? I certainly haven’t seen it yet.
On another note, some of the lyrics in the songs turned my head. Particularly, ‘What’s cute about little cutie, it’s her beauty not her brains”, in the number ‘Young and Beautiful.’ Interesting. I can imagine some of those sentiments didn’t go down well with some of the audience, but I am willing to forgive it. The show is set in a period where this kind of sexism was commonplace and the show must be authentic, with the correct socio-political context. In any case, I didn’t dwell on it for too long.
Overall, 42nd Street is a feast for the eyes and ears. It has a magical theatricality, which leaves us with our eyes wide and big smiles on our faces. It successfully embraces the genre, recognising and promoting the ‘tinsel and glitter of showbiz’ as its strongest asset. It was a truly enjoyable evening. I left elated, my head filled with music and colour, tapping my way down Drury Lane in a euphoric state!
Review by Katie Merritt
Click for Tix: @ Drury Lane
Running: 20 MAR 17 ►22 JUL 17
♥ Thank you to Matt Hamm for the invite
♥ Thank you to Greg for the Glitzy Top Hat illustration