Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London – until 14 October 2017
The buzz of reviewing one of my all-time favourite musicals in one of London’s most historic theatres is one that will remain for a long time to come. So much hype surrounded this production of 42nd Street and it didn’t disappoint. From the moment the conductor raised his baton the stage and auditorium was alive with the sound of tap shoes! So many pairs of feet dancing in perfect sequence and in unison, every number was a spectacle de force.
Set in the 1930’s, 42nd Street is based around a show ‘Pretty Lady’ at the helm of which is Julian Marsh (Tom Lister) – the curtain opens on the casting call, as several male and female wannabe chorus-liners strut their stuff. Late to the party is Peggy Sawyer (Claire Halse) who has travelled from Allentown to audition and has been hanging around at the stage door, terrified to go in. Having missed her chance, despite juvenile lead Billy Lawlor’s (Stuart Neal) attempts to show her off after he takes a shine to her, it seems that her journey has been wasted.
Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton) is heading up the cast and although she can sing, dancing is not one of her talents, in spite of her star status. The story is one of luck changing on a sixpence, unfortunate events becoming the catalyst for better things and an unpredictable love story. Musical numbers include I Only Have Eyes For You, Go Into Your Dance, We’re In The Money, About A Quarter To Nine and Lullaby of Broadway. Classic musical theatre songs which may be familiar to many, even if they don’t readily associate them with 42nd Street.
Clare Halse takes the role of Peggy Sawyer and she was unsurprisingly outstanding, she stood out for me for all the right reasons when she was in Gypsy at The Savoy Theatre in 2015. She is a triple threat if ever there was one and watching her acting the iconic role so beautifully was as much of a treat as her wonderful dancing feet and her stunning vocal ability. She was matched well with Stuart Neal as Billy Lawlor, the young gentleman who champions the chorus girl yet is not set to get the girl, ultimately. Neal’s footwork was a delight to see and he possessed the right combination of charm coupled with a cheeky persona. Tom Lister was one of the surprise turns of the evening, for me, I admit that I had previously been familiar with his work in Emmerdale so to hear him sing so powerfully was quite something. Sheena Easton was the other surprise of the night, I hadn’t previously associated the pop singer’s vocals with the degree of technical ability that she demonstrated. I must also mention Jasna Ivir as Maggie Jones, she captured my attention from the beginning and her comic timing was superb. She made an excellent partner for Christopher Howell as Bert Barry and indeed Bruce Montague as Abner Dillon, both of whom gave strong performances.
Although naturally, there are lead characters in amongst the super-talented cast, it is very much an ensemble piece too and there was no weak link in there. The choreography was so quick, slick and polished that my eyes could barely keep up with it! High kicks, wondrous use of mirrors and the sound emulating from those shoes when they landed skillfully upon the surface of the stage was incredible. The set was glorious, transforming easily from behind the scenes to the glitz and glamour of musical theatre scenery. Costumes were predictably sensational too, adding an extra dimension to the visually captivating show. I can’t recommend the production highly enough, it will have you toe-tapping in your seat and if you’re anything like me, singing along too – albeit quietly! A west end hit which will undoubtedly draw in the crowds.