42nd Street Review

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42nd Street review

42nd Street Cast

CJ Johnson (Dorothy Brock*), Tom Lister (Julian Marsh), Clare Halse (Peggy Sawyer), Stuart Neal (Billy Lawlor), Jasna Ivir (Maggie Jones), Christopher Howell (Bert Barry), Norman Bowman (Pat Denning). More here. * denotes an understudy.

42nd Street Review

Given my distaste for old school musicals, their thin plots, shows within shows and needless dance numbers; I find it quite ironic that 42nd Street is one of the most enjoyable musicals I’ve seen in recent times. Yes, the plot is wafer thin: a production of ‘Pretty Lady’ is being staged with ageing leading lady Dorothy Brock (played by the show’s fabulous standby CJ Johnson at the performance I attended); somehow a young woman, Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), who missed the initial audition ends up heavily involved in the whole shebang. The show within a show is really a vehicle for as many up tempo dance numbers as possible to be included within the confines of a few hours of theatre.

Thankfully the dance numbers fit largely within the narrative of the piece, they’re not at all tedious and really do steal the limelight in this production. Performed by the largest (in number) ensemble that I’ve ever seen, the tap routines are delivered with a tangible energy that magnifies to something much greater than the sum of its parts. Coupled with some lavish set pieces that seemingly appear out of nowhere and soaring show tunes that seep with nostalgia; there is no doubt that 42nd Street is a spectacle in every sense of the word.

Yet, amid all of the elaborate costumes, unified motion and witty dialogue; Clare Halse manages to elevate above the rest. She leads the cast through this whirlwind of a production with great gusto and charisma; delivers some strong vocals in the show’s title number and draws the audiences eye at every turn. The rest of the cast provide a solid base on which she’s able to shine.

Overall, I like that this production of 42nd Street is very self-aware; it doesn’t try to wedge needless nuance or meaning into swathes of dialogue. Instead, it unashamedly delivers its bright, bold, exuberant numbers to an impeccable standard with fun being the only thing on its agenda. I give 42nd Street a rating of 4/5.

Experience the joy of this production with the 2017 London Cast Recording*!

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