Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 14 October 2023
With all of the glitz and glamour of a Broadway show, 42nd Street has tap danced its way into Grey Street this week. It may be a an old story full of familiar tropes but the tale feels relevant in the modern climate. It is nice to have a show full of escapism that gives an audience hope.
This musical is based on a 1933 film about creating a musical in the great depression. When it first arrived on the scene in 1980 the musical with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren won a number of awards. It appears that people want a touch of nostalgia. This must be one of the first jukebox musicals, containing a number of songs of the era for a variety of films.
The show starts by mixing footage of the 30s with scenes of rehearsal. News is out that Julian Marsh (Michael Praed) is creating a new musical called Pretty Lady. Given that most of Broadway is out of work, following the Wall Street crash, the idea that there will be work for about 100 people on and off stage creates a buzz. The show is being co-written and co-produced by Maggie Jones (Faye Tozer) and Bert Barry (Les Dennis) who are coming up with the songs.
Billy Lawlor (Sam Lips) is a tenor in the show and he spots young nervous Peggy Sawyer (Nicole-Lily Baisden) who has turned up late for an audition. Whilst they hit off quickly, she is quickly sent packing. However another chorus girl is needed and so she finds herself recruited.
The show needs a big marquee name to help sell tickets but they have signed Dorothy Brock (Samantha Womack) who can sing but is hopeless at dancing. The solution suggested is to surround the faded star with the talented ensemble members.
42nd Street then follows the show through rehearsals, out of town try outs and then, eventually, Broadway itself. There is a rags-to-riches element to the tale, though the other aspects of prima donna stars and tough directors ring a familiar bell with the gossip pages of the tabloids.
This show is full of big dance numbers. The tap dancers are accompanied by a big and very pleasant sounding live band. Hearing the reed section alongside the rhythms that the dancers generate had a real energy.
On top of this are the dazzling costumes, wigs and shoes - it must be organised chaos backstage as the cast keep changing their outfits .You also have some clever lighting decisions - the shadows that form in one of the early scenes really added to the action.
Right through to the curtain call the ensemble and principle leads sing and dance - entertaining the Theatre Royal crowd in a glamourous spectacle. This was an entertaining night at the theatre. Definitely one for the fans of those old musical films.
Review: Stephen Oliver
Photos: Johan Persson
42nd Street plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 October 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.
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