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42nd Street
Music by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin
Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble
Directed and Choreographed by Denis Jones
The Muny
June 24, 2016

Cast of 42nd Street Photo: The Muny

Cast of 42nd Street
Photo: The Muny

 “You may be going out there a youngster, but you’ve gotta come back a star!”  Those are the words Broadway director Julian Marsh (Shuler Hensley) says to Peggy Sawyer (Jonalyn Saxer), exemplifying the dreams of many a hopeful young performer with aims of a dazzling career in show business. Those starry aspirations are at the heart of the latest production on stage at the Muny, the big and glitzy valentine to 1930’s Broadway, 42nd Street. This show isn’t about realism, but glamour and the fantasy of stardom, highlighted by a great cast and some truly spectacular dancing.

It’s New York City in the early 1930’s, and a host of young, talented hopefuls are excited to audition for famous director Julian Marsh’s newest show. Among those performers is Peggy Sawyer, who is fresh off the train from Allentown, PA and who has dreams of some day being a star.  At first, though, she’s not off to a great start. Despite showing off a good voice and great dancing skills, she arrives too late and misses the audition. But Peggy has caught the eye of the show’s leading man, Billy Lawlor (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and eventually one of its writers, Maggie Jones (Ann Harada) and she gets a part in the chorus. Of course, the show already has a leading lady, somewhat jaded star Dorothy Brock (Emily Skinner), who’s got a great voice but isn’t much of a dancer, and she’s not particularly fond of Peggy at first. There are a lot of twists and turns in this plot, and most of them are predictable, but that hardly matters in an upbeat, incredibly entertaining show like this that’s all about hopes, dreams, showbiz, and lots and lots of dancing. It’s a tribute to the big glamorous musicals of the 1920’s and 30’s, with a lot of energy, classic songs, and a good amount of humor and heart.

The production values are top-notch, with a colorful, versatile set by Michael Schweikart and wonderfully whimsical costumes by Andrea Lauer. The big production numbers like “We’re In the Money” and “Lullabye of Broadway” look great, featuring director Denis Jones’s spectacular choreography that showcases a lot of intricately executed tap dancing. The style, look, and sound of the 1930’s movie musicals is there, with great sound by John Shivers and David Patridge, and superb lighting by Rob Denton.

In addition to that wonderful dancing ensemble, the leads are ideally cast as well. Saxer dances joyfully and has a great voice as the perky, optimistic Peggy, and Johnson is charming and an equally strong dancer as Billy. Hensley as Marsh projects a believable air of kindness that informs his otherwise authoritative character. Skinner is also great as the talented but insecure Dorothy Brock, and there are some fun comedic performances by Harada as Maggie and Jason Kravitz as comedian/writer Bert Barry.

42nd Street is a show that idealizes show business and is characterized by an underlying sense of hope, even in difficult times. The sense of drive and purpose displayed by its characters is enthusiastic and infectious, and the dance numbers are not to be missed. This is a spectacular in the best sense of that term. It’s a an ideal show for a venue with a reputation for big stylish musicals. This show is the Muny at its best.

Cast of 42nd Street Photo: The Muny

Cast of 42nd Street
Photo: The Muny

42nd Street at the Muny runs until June 30, 2016.

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