42nd Street @ New Victoria Theatre, Woking

cast list
Graeme Henderson
David Birch
Rebecca Marks
Shirley Jameson
Graham Hoadley
Ashley Nottingham
Jessica Punch
Dave Willetts
Julia J Nagle
Bruce Montague
Nicholas Charters
“Come on along and listen to the Lullaby of Broadway”

The opening line of Lullaby of Broadway is one of many memorable numbers from 42nd Street and its the perfect tune to lure you into this wonderful touring production.

Originally a 1933 Busby Berkeley film staring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, 42nd Street was then successfully adapted for the stage in 1980 and has had several major revivals since. With a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin, and music by Harry Warren this is a nostalgic look at the great depression and the world of show business.

42nd Street follows the fortunes of Peggy Sawyer, a young, talented girl, fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and her attempts to join the cast of a new musical, Pretty Lady, by the famous Broadway director, Julian Marsh. At the same time, she is pursued by Billy, the juvenile star of the show, and trying not to anger the show’s big female lead Dorothy Brock.

What is fascinating about this musical is how many songs have become familiar beyond the context of the show: Young and Healthy, Keep Young and Beautiful, We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway and, of course, 42 nd Street. Furthermore, you find yourself being overcome by the wonderful music and sheer exuberance of the dancers on stage, of which this production has plenty.

Jessica Punch is excellent as the clumsy but very talented Peggy, and her transformation from the shy young girl to the show’s confident lead is expertly done. Shirley Jameson and Graham Hoadley are well cast as the show’s writers and, Jameson in particular brings charm and personality to the stage.

Dave Willetts is perfect as the gruff but ultimately caring director and he manages to maintain his loud growling voice throughout the piece. Rebecca Marks is also very good as Anytime Annie and shows huge amounts of magnetism on stage, very impressive for her professional debut.

The sets by Douglas W Schmit were simple and allowed the dancers plenty of room to move. The choreography by Graeme Henderson (who also plays Andy Lee) is both classical tap and yet also excitingly modern, allowing those members of the cast with obvious proficiency to shine, especially in the classic number We’re in the Money; while at the same time referencing Busby Berkeley and the original film.

This production feels fresh and joyous while at the same time not shifting too far away from the original. If you like your musicals packed full of well known numbers, performed with real energy, then try and catch this while it still on tour.

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