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42nd Street – New Theatre, Cardiff

Music: Harry Warren

Lyrics: Al Dubin

Choreographer: Graeme Henderson

Director: Mark Bramble

Reviewer: Holly Spanner


42nd Street originally premiered at the Kennedy Centre, DC in 1980, opening on Broadway one month later, where it ran for more than 3000 performances. The show opened in London’s West End in 1984 and helped to launch the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones when she landed the lead rôle of Peggy Sawyer a few years later.

“To get a job in the Broadway chorus, go into your dance!”

Based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and with a subsequent film in 1933, 42nd Street is set in the Great Depression and is the story of small town girl, Peggy Sawyer, a young and enthusiastic Broadway hopeful. After missing her audition, chorus girls Anytime Annie, Lorraine and Phyllis take Peggy to dinner, where they encourage her to dance. Here, she catches the eye of the shows director Julian Marsh, who offers her a second chance.

traditional painted curtains provide the backdrop for a number of the scenes, which leaves the stage uncluttered for the dancers while still providing a sense of place. The sets are minimal, with the principle features being Dorothy’s dressing room and the famous grand light-up staircase in the finale. Movement of the follow spots could be a little slicker; especially at the beginning of We’re in the Money. However, there is simply no doubting the glamour and wow factor as the song progresses. As this is a show with big, full company dance numbers, the cast are entirely the main focus and it relies heavily on the choreography, timing and unison of the dancers.

Graeme Henderson’s choreography sets the pace of the show from the outset, and is performed well throughout. It is tight, intricate, and very fast paced. Look out for the encore; he saves the best for last.

The movement and energy of this cast is infectious as the company move as one organism across the stage; however Swing, Hollie Sorelle, although not one of the main characters is a real stand out performer. Her movements are well polished, smooth, professional, and she makes it look effortless. Rebecca Marks (Anytime Annie) is an incredible dancer, actress, singer, and embodies everything that is expected and more from old Broadway.

It is a pity we have to wait until Act 2 to hear Dave Willetts (Julian Marsh) sing, although he does have plenty of on-stage moments in the first act. Lullaby of Broadway is perhaps one of the most well-known tracks in the musical, and is performed with just the right balance of command and temptation.

Jessica Punch as Peggy Sawyer is naïve, wondrous, innocent, and an absolutely fantastic fast tapper. Where she perhaps isn’t as strong vocally as other cast members, she more than makes up for it with her footwork and is a joy to watch as she grows in the rôle.

The dialogue between routines could perhaps be tighter, as it sometimes feels like an anti-climax after the intense choreography of the dance numbers. Big dancing and big acting alike (where elsewhere would seem out of place), and lots of costume changes helps to re-create the Broadway magic of the 1930’s in this sparkly, energetic, happy show – and plenty of jazz hands.

“You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”

Runs until 29th September 2012

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