Stratford Shakespeare Festival|
Through October 28
42nd STREET Festival Theatre/Stratford Shakespeare Festival
By Augustine Warner
Musical comedy started as that, before turning to more serious fare with “Les Miserables” or “Miss Saigon,” with that helicopter.
“42nd Street” doesn't pretend to that.
This stage version of the 1933 film is entertainment for hard times.
Released in the depths of the Great Depression, the film is the story of a once great Broadway producer whose money went away in 1929 and who has one last chance to be “in the money.”
The film comes from that transition era between vaudeville and movie magnificence, as directors like Busby Berkeley were just learning what could be done on the big screen with sound, with the marvelous effects of tapping feet and song.
While this film came from and saved Warner Brothers, it has some of the panache of MGM, the greatest producer of movie musicals and this film has Harry Warren and Al Dubin, legendary on Broadway and then in Hollywood for their songs.
Musicals remain a cultural highpoint of the bad economic times of the Thirties (remember the formally dressed, dancing rich Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers?)
“42nd Street” is getting a wonderful production on Stratford's Festival Theatre stage with a budget Buffalo producers would kill for.
Billy Lawlor (Kyle Blair), the male lead, has seven pairs of shoes for different numbers.
The female lead the afternoon I saw the show was an understudy.
That's deeply ironic for a show about an understudy who goes on for a Broadway diva and becomes a star.
I have no idea what Cynthia Dale's status as Dorothy Brock will be when you see the show but understudy Lorena Mackenzie was wonderful.
Blair is probably wonderful with either.
The show is built around one last-gasp attempt by producer Julian Marsh (Sean Arbuckle) to have a hit show, “Pretty Lady.”
He scrapes together the necessary cash, a team for the songs, dancers desperate for work and the fading star Brock as the lead.
It doesn't hurt that Brock brings cash from her boyfriend, Abner Dillon (Steve Ross).
The opening was probably ripped off for “A Chorus Line,” the practicing dancers, Broadway's legendary “gypsies,” as they are taught the dances for the show.
A newcomer wanders into the auditions, arrival delayed by stage fright.
Brock hates newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) after seeing her dance.
Under pressure, Marsh keeps her on and she meets “the kids,” the chorus dancers.
In Philadelphia, the show is in trouble and then Brock trips over Sawyer and breaks her leg and it's all over.
It isn't when Marsh agrees to give Sawyer her shot at stardom replacing Brock.
You know the rest and the final curtain drops on Sawyer as a star, who doesn't forget where she came from.
It's all a great show.
Director Gary Griffin is working with a wonderful set from Debra Hanson and wonderful choreography from Alex Sanchez, featuring a lot of soft shoe and wonderfully synchronized tap.
Griffin is also working with legendary songs from Warren and Dubin.
Did you ever wonder where “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” came from?
Or there is a marvelously staged “We're in the Money” with giant coins in bad times, “You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me” and the legendary “Lullaby of Broadway.”
Besides Lawlor, Rider-Shaw and Mackenzie, the cast is filled with an amazing set of dancers.
As usual at Stratford, theater stages are filled with great shows.
If you are looking for marvelously done entertainment, see “42nd Street.”
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