Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
Also see Scott's review of Once on This Island
42nd Street tells the backstage tale of the extremely talented yet unexperienced Peggy Sawyer, who has just arrived in 1933 New York City hoping to become a star. Soon after arriving, she wins a spot in the ensemble of big-time director Julian Marsh's latest show, Pretty Lady. Her dreams seem dashed when she is fired after tripping the show's self-centered leading lady Dorothy Brock and causing the star singer to break her ankle. When everyone realizes that Peggy is the only person who can possibly step in and take over the lead role, it's up to Marsh and the entire company of Pretty Lady to find Peggy and bring her back.
Based on the 1933 movie musical of the same name, 42nd Street the stage show first landed on Broadway in 1980, and was also revived in 2001. The book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble is primarily lightweight fluff with predictable plotlines, a plethora of one-liners, and a tendency to break into lengthy dance numbers with little cause. But all of this is easily forgivable, for the musical never takes itself too seriously and knows that it is mostly an excuse to showcase some well-known classics songs and wonderful tap dancing.
Those classic showstoppers include "Dames," "I Only Have Eyes For You," "We're in the Money," "Lullaby of Broadway," and the famous title number. The songs, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin (additional lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Mort Dixon, and Michael Stewart), are carefully incorporated into the musical, often as performance pieces of the show within the show.
As Peggy Sawyer, Bailee Endebrock was extremely endearing, capturing the earnest spunk of the naïve hoofer and dancing up a storm. Nick Berninger was an aptly commanding presence as Julian Marsh, and impressed with "Lullaby of Broadway" and the reprise of the title song that closes the show. Jamie Goodson gave depth to the role of Dorothy Brock, and provided attractive and smoky vocals. Camila Paquet (a sardonic Maggie), Zoe Grolnick (a fun and flirty Annie), and Jack Brewer (classic song and dance man Billy) led the talented ensemble of more than forty performers in support.
Director Diane Lala provided a well-suited quick pace, appropriate tone, and smooth transitions. The musical is fundamentally a dance musical with many production numbers. The varied and vibrant choreography supplied by Lala and Katie Johannigman was well-executed at CCM and is core to the success of the show. Roger Grodsky energetically led a lush-sounding orchestra of twenty musicians.
The scenic design by Mark Halpin was impressive in its size and fittingly glitzy. The costumes by Reba Senske were stunning, and many in number. She incorporated a beautiful color palette and the outfits flowed beautifully during the dances. The lighting was expertly designed and executed by Jeremy Mayo .
CCM's mounting of 42nd Street boasted impeccable dances and dancing, well-known songs, immensely talented performers, and exquisite design elements. Even if the show is somewhat slight, this production was a praiseworthy one all around.
42nd Street played at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music from October 24-27, 2019.