Paul Johnson | 28 Apr 2013 17:19pm
A Musical Spectacular – 42nd Street
Staged at The Palace Theatre, Westcliff-On-Sea, I was transported back to the 1930s as Little Theatre Company pulled out all the stops in their recent production 42nd Street. LTC gave another show worthy of professional theatre. Big musicals take a lot of time and effort to stage, but this one ticked all the right boxes.
One of Broadway’s longest running shows with music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and the book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, 42nd Street was based on the novel by Bradford Ropes. And what a story – albeit cheesy in places – it has fabulous dance routines, some wonderful songs and plenty of comedy. Famed Broadway musical director, Julian Marsh (Paul Smith), wants to stage a grand musical spectacular in the height of the great depression in 1933 and has been promised the backing by millionaire Abner Dillon (Colin Bott), but at a price. The production can be staged, if Marsh casts his girlfriend, Dorothy Brock (Stephanie Wilson) as the leading lady. Then along comes Peggy Sawyer (Hana Cox) a naive, talented young girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has always dreamed of performing on Broadway and the scene is set. It’s a schmaltzy story but makes for a great show. Will ageing ‘has been’ Brock get the role? Will Sawyer get plucked from the obscurity of the chorus line to star in her first Broadway show and fulfil her dream? Will the show be staged at all?
The overture is quite rousing and draws us into the action which begins on stage at the 42nd Street theatre with a lively tap scene as the company audition for a new show, entitled Pretty Lady. With a cast of 41 and a 13-strong orchestra led by Paul Day, the show kept up a glittering pace throughout with some fabulous dance routines – especially the tap sequences.
A great song and dance man, Paul Smith impressed as Julian Marsh, a part he first played for the society nine years ago. Hana Cox was outstanding as Peggy Sawyer, and gave a performance of great depth and warmth conveying an innocent girl next door with aspirations of becoming a star. This part suited her perfectly. Her vocals were great and she gave the best tap routine I have ever seen. Stephanie Wilson’s portrayal of Dorothy Brock was a joy to watch. Commanding the stage she proved to be a good all-rounder and displayed perfect comic timing, as did Lianne Larthe as the charismatic Maggie Jones. Other outstanding performances include Simon Bristow as Billy Lawler, Ross Sowerbutts as Bert Barry and Caroline Ahmet as chorus girl Annie Reilly. They were ably supported by Kane Davies, Colin Bott and Dave Lobley who also gave fine performances. Any show this size relies on the company, who displayed great footwork and vocals. And with plenty of good cameo roles they all are to be congratulated on this fine production. Congratulations to Director Darren Harper on his debut as a director. He brought the magical era of 1930s American theatre to his audience. Ably assisted by Laura Harper the whole production was well cast and the fast and furious pace maintained throughout.
The musicality was good with some lovely harmonies, and the 13 piece orchestra played well under the direction of musical director Paul Day, recreating the distinctive 1930s sounds. There was a great mix of 1930’s jazz and feel good chorus numbers and I particularly enjoyed Sawyer and Wilson’s duet, About A Quarter To Nine. There were plenty of well-known tunes, We’re In The Money, Lullaby of Broadway and the signature tune,42nd Street which is my personal favourite. Choreographers Ali Graves and Laura Witherall did a fantastic job. Those dance routines had the WOW factor and were extremely well crafted and executed – especially the tap sequences. This production was beautifully staged and acted. The set was uncluttered yet effective – the night train sequence worked particularly well. Sound and lighting did a good job, the stage was well lit – I particularly liked the neon signs that were lowered from the flies. The costumes were fantastic and evoked the era – with plenty of sequins and sparkle where needed.
Another impressive production from this society who go from strength to strength – well done to all involved on stage and behind the scenes. The audience loved it and I left the Palace Theatre with a spring ball change in my step.
- : admin
- : 20/04/2013