42nd Street continues at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
It has been 33 years since 42nd Street had its first original London production at the Theatre Royal in 1984, when, in parallel to the production’s book, Catherine Zeta-Jones was plucked from the chorus and placed into the spotlight to permanently play the role of Peggy Sawyer.
The musical – which is based on the 1933 Warner Brothers film – has since played all over the world. Last night, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane welcomed back a true musical phenomenon to London’s West End stage.
The story of 42nd Street is the typical Broadway fairy tale. Dictatorial director Julian Marsh (Tom Lister) is putting on a new show. Pretty Lady is set to be the next Broadway marvel with hefty funds being thrown at it by leading lady Dorothy Brock’s (Sheena Easton) wealthy admirer.
Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), a talented, eager-to-please young woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania rolls up to the audition in search for spot on the stage.
Despite being late, she wows the show’s producers and is offered a place in the chorus line. However, when Brock breaks her ankle during rehearsal, Sawyer is forced to become an overnight sensation.
Although the book – written by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble – may sound inspiring, it is the dancing that truly brings the show to life.
Randy Skinner’s choreography, complemented by Bramble’s direction, makes way for a mesmerising spectacle.
During the number ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’, dancers lay on a rotating disc beneath the gaze of a giant mirror, projecting different angles and views to the audience, creating a unique and entrancing display (set design by Douglas W. Schmidt).
As expected, the larger group numbers such as ‘We’re in the Money’ and ‘42nd Street’ are in sync to military precision, which is wonderful if you are able to brush off the evident lack of diversity within the show.
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, the subsequent 1933 Hollywood film adaptation only included four songs, but Harry Warren’s music and Al Dublin’s lyrics swiftly made room for more toe-tapping scores ahead of the 1980 Broadway production.
However, as Bramble had promised, this particular revival sports a brand new number called ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, sung by Easton.
With a career spanning four decades, all eyes are on Easton in anticipation to find out whether she has anything in common with the past-her-time Dorothy Brock. Demonstrating a great vocal range and a knack for comic timing, Easton certainly delivers.
Halse also makes a charming Peggy Sawyer. She is incredibly quick on her feet, a wonderful dancer, and clearly a passionate performer.
What makes 42nd Street such a roaring success and stunning show is its impeccable attention to detail. No money has been spared in creating the lavish costumes and set.
At one stage, Julian Marsh says to the boys and girls in the show something like: “You’re all just specks of dust in my show,” but Peggy Sawyer replies so perfectly: “put all those specks together, you have something alive and beautiful that can reach out to a thousand people we’ve never seen before.”
And that is exactly what 42nd Street does. It is a show unlike any other and simply cannot be missed.
Tickets for 42nd Street are available HERE.
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Opening night for 42nd Street at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – exclusive gallery of images
View from 42nd Street – the lounge at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – News