Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
Music Direction by Doug Peck
Choreographed by Tammy Mader
“Come and Meet Those Dancing Feet on the Avenue I’m Taking You to -42nd Street!” –echos in Aurora!
Based on the 1933 film that saved Warner Brothers studio, producer David Merrick , believing that the 1980 nostalgia craze, decided to mount 42nd Street on stage. Directed by Gower Champion with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, 42nd Street became an extravaganza not seen on Broadway in decades. From the show’s opening that featured 40 dancers to the terrific energetic show-stoppers, Merrick’ concept led to a run of 3,486 performances. People love tap shows! The 2001 revival of 42nd Street ran for 1524 performances followed by a successful national tour and several worthy regional productions at Candlelight, Drury Lane, and Marriott in Chicago and Theatre at the Center in Muster, IN. Now in a spectacular, eye-popping production at Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
Just as they did at Marriott Theatre, a couple years ago, director Rachel Rockwell and choreographer Tammy Mader have mounted a slick, splashy, spirited production of the quintessential backstage musical fable. 42nd Street is a pure 1930’s style musical about how an ingenue saved a major new musical just before the first preview. Yes, Peggy Sawyer (Laura Savage as one of the strongest dancing ingenues seen in that role) is the cutie from Allentown arrives to audition for famed director Julian Marsh’s (the demanding Larry Adams) new musical – Pretty Lady. She meets the womanizer Billy Lawlor (the self-absorbed Tyler Hanes) and has a run-in with Marsh. She doesn’t get cast but the girls from the chorus take her to lunch where see dancers for them and choreographer Andy Lee (Richard Strimer).
When Marsh finds he needs another girl in the line, Sawyer get the gig. Meanwhile, the show’s star, Dorothy Brock ( Catherine Lord) – is a past her prime Prima Donna, renowned for inability to dance but she dates the show’s backer Abner Dillion (Roger Mueller) so Marsh must adapt the show to Brock’s abilities. During the rehearsal of a dance number, Brock collides with Sawyer causing the star to break her ankle. Brock blames Sawyer for the injury and Marsh fires Sawyer on the spot. Marsh decides to cancel the show since the star is unable to perform. The cast convinces Marsh that Sawyer can do the part so the show can go on. Marsh rushes to the train station to convince Sawyer to take the part. After the rousing anthem “Lullaby of Broadway” sung by Larry Adams’ Marsh and the entire cast, Peggy agrees to do the show. Rejoice! A star is born in the best tradition of backstage fables.
What makes this musical extravaganza so entertaining is the bouncy, melodious score by Harry Warren that contains rhythmic tap music, a cute waltz, toe-tapping jazzy tunes that explode into exuberant dances. “Go Into Your Dance,” “Dames” – Ziefeld Follies-styled together with the spectacular tap number “We’re In The Money” highlight act one. Charm, humor and a most likable cast of characters make us care about these struggling performers. Act two features the moving anthem “Lullaby of Broadway,” “About a Quarter to Nine” and the cute sardonic “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” The show ends with a hauntingly stylish and riveting dance to the sophisticated “42nd Street” song.
The Paramount Theatre production looks terrific with the neon-inspired art deco sets and lighting (sets by Kevin Depinet and lighting by Greg Hofmann) demonstrates their superbly detailed production values. Doug Peck’s tuneful music direction, Theresa Ham’s colorful 30’s costumes and, of course, the fabulous smoothy dancing by the cast. I’ve not seen a smarter tap ensemble led by Tyler Hanes and Laura Savage with Chicago favorites youthful tappers. Michael Weber and Nancy Voigts offer hilarious turns as the composers.
This fast-paced musical keeps the great tunes flowing; the eye-popping costumes and the humorous characters keep us engaged while the music keeps our toes-tapping. This show is a flawless, high-energy, wonderfully danced and sung fable that leaves audiences humming the songs long after the show’s over. A big, bold and brassy musical is never out of style – especially a major tap dance show such as 42nd Street.
It is a wonderful show to introduce youngsters to the joys of Broadway. Just as they did at Marriott Theatre and now in an even more gloriously energetic production on the larger Paramount stage, Rachel Rockwell and Tammy Mader have added little twists and some innovative choreography (especially in “Shadow Waltz” number to make this production stand out without trying to re-invent this classic backstage tap show.
42nd Street is the perfect musical to introduce youngsters to the joy and pleasure of classical Broadway musicals. The tap dancing and the extravagance staging will impress them. They’ll leave entertained with a smile on their face. 42nd Street is irresistible!
s Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2014
For more info checkout the 42nd Street page at theatreinchicago.com At the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena, Aurora, IL, call 630-896-6666, www.paramountaurora.com, tickets $36.90 – $49.90, Wednesdays at 1:30 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through February 9, 2014