Nothing makes my heart leap like the deafening roar of a 50-strong tap dancing chorus – perfectly synchronised with every flick, swoosh and tap. It’s a hypnotic sight and the stage twinkles with hundreds of diamantes and fizzes with the old school glamour of 1930s Broadway.
I am of course talking about Mark Bramble’s show-stopping revival of 42nd Street at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It’s joyous to see these musical classics making a comeback into the West End, and especially for one that was considered fairly risqué at the time. Bramble certainly delivers an ambitious production.
Sheena Easton makes her West End debut as Broadway’s leading lady Dorothy Brock. When she takes a tumble on stage and injures her ankle, the unassuming chorus girl Peggy (Clare Halse), takes centre stage. It’s your typical small-town girl becomes big-time musical star, with a side of romance and big brassy numbers.
A gorgeous big band delivers Harry Warren and Al Dublin’s recognisable songs, including ‘We’re in the Money’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, all performed by a first-rate cast. There’s fine work from Easton, Halse and Tom Lister who stars as the hot shot stage director, and the talent flows through the entire production.
OK, if we want to nitpick, the story’s predictable and some of the grand routines add little relevance in the way of plot (but who’s really sniffling a little flashiness?!) With an expansive set and extraordinarily large cast, Randy Skinner’s tap-perfect choreography is truly spectacular, tightly assembled and electrifying.
The impressive scale of the production perfectly lends itself to the grandeur of the Theatre Royal. Every inch of Douglas W Schmidt’s vast set is flooded with neon lights, a magnificent ascending staircase and a rotating ceiling mirror that creates kaleidoscopic patterns of the chorus girls. This is big budget West End and it’s visually stunning.
42nd Street offers an evening of toe-tapping escapism and pays homage to the golden age of Broadway. This charming and beautifully crafted musical will have you seduced by those dancing feet and dazzled by the view.
(Photo courtesy of cBrinkhoff & Moegenburg)