Since Kelsey Grammar's Macbeth opened this Broadway season, it seems almost fitting that a musical as empty, meaningless, and unengaging as this revival production of 42nd Street, which opened last night at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, should close it.
Bloated and ungainly, badly choreographed by Randy Skinner, over designed by Douglas W. Schmidt (responsible for the sets), Paul Gallo (responsible for the lighting), and Roger Kirk (responsible for the glitzy, unattractive costumes), and curiously under directed (or poorly directed as the case may be) by Mark Bramble, it falters and flounders its two and a half hours upon the stage, trusting in nothing so much as a gullible audience's willingness to be dazzled by pointless spectacle and the artificially enhanced sound of taps.
The souffle of a book, by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, quickly crumples under the unnecessary weight of this production and the glorious songs, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, are given such ponderous stagings they can't save it.
Michael Cumpsty as Julian Marsh, Christine Ebersole as Dorothy Brock, and Mary Testa as Maggie Jones, three performers who can usually be counted on to make things interesting, seem here to be trying their best, but to no great effect. Kate Levering, as aspiring chorine Peggy Sawyer, can sing and dance, but totally lacks the star quality which is more or less a prerequisite for the role. No one else makes much of an impression at all in their stereotypical and interchangeable roles.
One can only speculate on the cynical, greedy, and calculating intentions and decisions which have resulted in this ill-conceived and unaccomplished revival of a musical based on the eternal Broadway uber myth of instant stardom. A sense of contemptuous pandering permeates this production and renders it unfulfilling, unattractive, and unworthy of the patronage of discerning theatergoers.
42nd Street Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. Lyrics by Al Dubin. Music by Harry Warren. Directed by Mark Bramble. Musical staging and new choreography by Randy Skinner. Scenery designed by Douglas W. Schmidt. Costume design by Roger Kirk. Lighting design by Paul Gallo. Musical direction by Todd Ellison. Orchestrations by Philip J. Lang. Sound design by Peter Fitzgerald. Starring Michael Cumpsty and Christine Ebersole. Also starring Mary Testa, Jonathan Freeman, David Elder, and Kate Levering.
Theatre: Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 213 West 42nd Street
Audience: Suitable for children.
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: $20 to $90
Tickets online: Ticketmaster
Tickets by phone: Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 / 1 800 755-4000
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM