THEATRE ROYAL DRURY LANE
42nd STREET (musical)
Ends 5th January 2019.
Broadway, 1932. It's the great depression (and we are not talking the fan-girl behaviour at "Wicked" when their favourite is off, this is serious, well, more serious). Anyway, producer Julian Marsh is forced to send on understudy dancer Peggy Sawyer...
... the rest is history...
Classic songs like "Lullaby of Broadway" and "42nd Street" return to Drury Lane a mere 28 years after the last run here.
(seen at the preview performance on 29th March 2017)
In a West End season that sees three “dance musicals” open in the space of a few weeks, this is the monkey’s second after “An American in Paris.” Unusually for a London theatregoer, it loves this particular genre, and was keen to see how this revival measured up, not just against the original production (which it did see, many moons ago) but also the competition. Its conclusion?...
“42nd Street” plays cappuccino to “An American In Paris’s” espresso. Which it enjoys more simply depends on its mood, as there isn’t a thing to choose between them in terms of the skills, talents and music on stage. Paris’s darker post-war tale feels it throughout. The ‘Street may be set in a depression where no work means starvation, but it never really lets the troubles intrude – this really is froth all the way. That can be detrimental. The lack of suspense and feeling of peril costs it the drama to give a final edge to proceedings, but no matter, there’s always a gorgeous song and dance instead.
The ensemble (24 expert tapping ladies, 12 equally tapping gents) drop jaws in the opening number, and top even that in the final encore. In between, they simply dance up a storm – ladies a little better rehearsed on their marks than the gents, at the preview monkey saw – and “Keep Young And Beautiful” in particular is eye-poppingly beautiful. Notable in the team are Jasner Ivir (Maggie Jones), Emma Caffrey (Annie), Ella Martine (Lorraine) and Clare Rickard (Phyllis) for the ladies, whose small roles are performed with skill. For the gents, Mark McKerracher (Mac / Doc / Thug) manages to both beat and cure fellow-cast members with aplomb, and Luke George, Ryan Gover and Dylan Mason are notable dancers.
The leads deliver the old classic numbers with polish if not actual flair. Sheena Easton (Dorothy Brock) is every inch the diva, her final scene though a lovely piece of credible turnaround. No wonder Bruce Montague (Abner Dillon) stands by her and Norman Bowman (Pat Denning) chases. Replacement Clare Halse (Peggy Sawyer) is a dream dancer, with a sweet voice and stage presence that has the audience on her side from the off. Small surprise that enthusiastic Stuart Neal (Billy Lawlor) wants to help her – and he’s no mean dancer himself, just needing to stand an inch or two over at times. Tom Lister (Julian Marsh) also has us well believing his love of producing, his closing “42nd Street” a highlight of the show.
If there are the odd cheap moments – an insubstantial railway set, painted bottles behind a bar, and a downright peculiar waxwork stagehand duo; the (mostly) in-house painted backdrops and “cloths” are exquisite – the “Pretty Girl” one in particular is stunning. Gareth Owen gets the sound to match, so not a tap is missed, and Roger Kirk’s costumes deserve special note.
The monkey hopes this outing proves as successful as the original run, as it is a true classic in a loving lullaby of a revival.