Curve Theatre Leicester – until 3rd June 2023
Reviewed by Amarjeet Singh
It’s the era of the Great Depression and infamous musical theatre director Julian Marsh is putting on a new show. Every dancer worth a dime wants to be a part of it and none is more determined than the former Miss Allentown, Peggy Sawyer, but can she make it? Mishaps and mayhem, mischief and misunderstandings all cumulate to scupper her dreams of making it big. Is there anything that can get Peggy to where she was born to be, In front of the bright lights of a Broadway stage? Peggy’s pluck, determination and incredible talent earns her the respect, recognition and role of a lifetime but can she pull it off at the 11th hour?
42nd Street is a musical extravaganza steeped in nostalgia. It takes you through the journey of Sawyers serendipitous rise to stardom and this new Made at Curve co-production is a spectacular rendition. Directed by Jonathan Church it is jam packed with iconic song-and-dance showstoppers. Choreographed and designed by Olivier Award winners Bill Deamer and Rob Jones the songs include ‘42nd Street’, ‘We’re in The Money’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ it’s simply not to be missed.
The production is enthralling and the wise-cracking book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble is full of snappy one-liners. It is, however, a little uncomfortable when faced with the misogyny of yesteryear musicals being revived but not updated. It’s quite jarring to hear the chorus sing, ‘Keep Young and Beautiful, if you want to be loved”, and “What’s cute about a little cutie is her beauty, not brains.”, and other such things, but…
42nd Street is a good old-fashioned spectacle, and it is beautiful. The tap dance routines are incredible and leave you open jawed at their intricacies. There is melodrama, backstage intrigue, classic romance and a dazzling show within a show…and it must go on!
Josefina Gabrielle as Maggie Jones and Les Dennis as Bert Barry brought some great comedic moments. Ruthie Henshaw as Dorothy Brock was every bit the divine diva. Her execution of ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ gave me tingles. Fully embracing the development of her character, she was a joy to watch. Adam Garcia played Julian Marsh with an understated coolness, which worked really well in this production. Sam Lips as Billy Lawlor was a phenomenal talent, both his singing and dancing left me speechless, but the star in every sense was Nicole-Lily Baisden who played Peggy Sawyer. She was the personification of dynamite, what she did with her feet was nothing less than enchantment. Tapping, twirling and all the while flashing a megawatt smile and barely breaking a sweat. She was both youngster and a star. The rest of the ensemble were incredible. It was astounding to behold the huge tap-dancing chorus fill the stage, coming together to create a magical performance. Traditional tapdancing was also enhanced with the addition of some tango and flamenco flavours, which really spiced things up.
The costumes, dazzlingly lavish and bright, added extra layers to the dance routines. The sets, stunning, steeped in art deco, quite simple, but very effective. Many set pieces doubling up, seamlessly moved into place as the action continues before your eyes.
With a running time at 2 hours and 35 minutes, including a 20-minute interval, 42nd Street is a larger-than-life, celebration of hope, grit and the irrepressible spirit of Broadway that’s guaranteed to lift anyone’s spirits. It’s a charmingly choreographed extravaganza that both musical veterans and novices can equally enjoy, making it the perfect show for one and all.