42nd Street: An immersive and lavish production hailing back to 1930s musicals

For anyone who is a fan of high-end productions then 42nd Street is the one to see – whether it’s the brilliantly perfected dance routines or the lavish costumes the play does not fail to entertain.

Director: Mark Bramble

Written by: Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble

Starring: Sheena Easton, CJ Johnson, Tom Lister, Claire Halse, Stuart Neal, Jasna Ivir, Christopher Howell, Norman Bowman, Graeme Henderson, Bruce Montague

Running time: 2hrs 30mins

Theatre: Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Without having any background knowledge of the narrative before seeing 42nd Street I went in completely unaware of what I was going to see and I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

Set during the 1930s depression the show follows a production company who are attempting to put on the next best show on Broadway.

The lead actress, Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton), who can only see but not dance, is torn between two loves – the show’s wealthy backer Abner Dillon (Bruce Montague) and Pat Denning (Norman Bowman)

While aspiring young performer Peggy Sawyer (Claire Halse) waits for her big break.

Words really cannot explain the lavishness of the production. With perfected choreography, it was hard to find anything out of place in the large-scale dance routines.

Halfway through the show, I found myself feeling like I was one of the audience members who paid to see their production.

Cleverly I feel this was the show’s intention by having direct communication with us (the audience) and regular digs at the orchestra and even looking down into the pit.

Anyone who is a fan of Busby Berkeley musicals will without a doubt find this production an homage to an era when musical theatre was at its peak.

Utilising mirrors, steps and other set designs the dances were truly spot on and the audience went crazy for them especially during ‘We’re In The Money’ – one of the many popular hits.

Although many people will be buying tickets to see star Sheena Easton perform as Dorothy Brock, it was actually her understudy who played the role.

CJ Johnson stepped into the role perfectly and it is no surprise she is cast as the understudy. Whether or not she is better than Easton can only be decided if I saw both play the role but nevertheless she was brilliant.

However, the praise really needs to go to Halse. Her performance as young, naïve Peggy Sawyer was absolute perfection.

How she, and the rest of the cast, can get on the stage sometimes twice a day to perform the mesmerising tap dance routines is beyond me – I got tired just watching them.

It clearly shows their talents and dedication to the show – plus it looks like it is just pure fun. Choreography Randy Skinner must be proud.

What surprised me about the production was the number of cast members. Although not all have speaking lines the show is still a large-scale production – something rare in West End shows these days due to funding issues.

However, you can see why 42nd Street needs the numbers it has. Playing homage to the 1930s musicals when they had large cast members they need them all – plus they add to the brilliant choreography.

With hits like ‘We’re In The Money’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway, you’ll have the tunes stuck in your head for days after seeing the show.

42nd Street is an all-around, feel-good production that will make you want to grab your old tap dance shows and dance around.

 

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