Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

42nd Street
Spotlight Youth Theatre

Also see Gil's review of Gypsy, Evita, Wicked, and Lucky Stiff

Katie Czajkowski and Michael Schulz (center) and the cast
There is a line in the musical 42nd Street where one of the adult characters in the show exuberantly proclaims "she's young, kids can do anything." The same statement could be made about the extremely talented cast of young performers in Spotlight Youth Theatre's production of this classic backstage musical. These kids may all be in their teens but they act, sing and dance with an infectious glee, full of professionalism and charm, which make Spotlight's production of this classic, dance heavy show a musical comedy treat.

The plot of the show is thin but it is still very fun. Broadway director Julian Marsh is trying to put on a big Broadway show entitled Pretty Lady in the middle of the Great Depression featuring former star Dorothy Brock. While Marsh thinks Brock is past her prime, he needs the funding for the show that Brock's wealthy boyfriend has agreed to put up. In walks ingénue Peggy Sawyer, fresh off the bus from Allentown, PA, to audition for the show and she immediately clashes with Brock, including stumbling into her during rehearsals making Dorothy fall and break her leg. Will the show go on? Who could possibly fill in for Dorothy? It doesn't take a genius to figure out the answers to those questions or how the show will end.

While the story is extremely lightweight and predictable, the virtual non-stop dancing throughout and the infectious songs from the 1930's composing team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin make the end result a joyful experience. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 film of the same name, the musical uses the songs from the film along with other numbers from the Warren and Dubin catalog. The show features such familiar tunes as "We're in the Money," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Lullaby of Broadway," "You're Gettin' to Be a Habit with Me" and the title song. Also, Spotlight is presenting the slightly revised 2001 Broadway revival version of the show that also includes the excellent ballad "I Only Have Eyes for You."

Director Kenny Grossman doesn't make a single misstep, ensuring that the comedy moments are funny, and that the charm of the characters isn't lost beneath the abundance of vibrant dancing, exceptionally choreographed by Alicia Frazier. Grossman has also assembled three excellent actors for his leads as well as an energetic supporting cast that help establish the characters as more than just caricatures.

As Peggy Sawyer, Katie Czajkowski is appropriately naïve, energetic, spunky and bright eyed. Her radiant personality and lovely dancing and singing have the audience rooting for her to succeed. Michael Schulz instills the demanding director Julian Marsh with the right amount of steadfast power that the role requires but he also shows hints of charm, fatherly advice and even a touch of vulnerability, turning what could easily be a wooden role into a three dimensional person. While Schulz doesn't sing much in the show his solo version of the title song at the finale is excellently delivered. Czajkowski and Schulz have great chemistry together, instilling a touch of heat to their relationship, including a great scene where March teaches Peggy the right way to express love on stage through a few passionate kisses that sizzles.

Kira Kadel gives Dorothy the right balance of vulnerability, fierceness and maturity and a big dusting of old time star power that combine to bring the role vibrantly alive, full of layers and nuance. Kadel's flawless line delivery, facial reactions and comic timing are spot on and her earthy, bold and brassy voice works well with Dorothy's solos, including a perfect take on "I Only Have Eyes for You" and a touching duet of "About a Quarter to Nine" that she and Czajkowski deliver perfectly. In the supporting cast Camden Wawro is a jolt of comic lighting as Maggie, one of the song writers of Pretty Lady; Phoenix Briggs has a nice voice and good dance moves and brings a fun hint of smarmy, cockiness as Billy Lawlor, the handsome male lead of the show. Sydnie Greger, Maggie Waller and Jessica Wastchak are great as the trio of dancers in the show who at first are miffed by Dorothy's naivety but quickly become her friends and Cody H. Seaver has exceptional dancing skills as Andy, Marsh's Pretty Lady dance captain.

While Spotlight's stage isn't very large, Grossman manages to open it up as far as possible to make the large dance sequences come to life. His swift pacing keeps the infectious fun of the show propelling forward as does Frazier's choreography that is full of lively dance steps as well as some that don't overstep the abilities of the large ensemble. Heather Walker's music direction achieves lovely sounds from the large cast and Bobby Sample's set design, while fairly minimal, includes enough small set pieces to establish the locations of each scene as well as a backdrop of Broadway theatre marquees. Rhea Courtney and Richard "Mickey" Courtney's costumes are period perfect, including numerous outfits for the whole cast for both the many Pretty Lady dance sequences as well as appropriate street clothes. Trey DeGroodt's hair and make-up designs are exceptional, firmly rooted in the 1930's and Josh Hontz' lighting provides a vibrant color palette of light and shadow that highlight each scene and character when required and his and sound design allows for clearly heard vocals and dialogue, though the mostly un-mic'd ensemble is occasionally a bit distant.

With an exceptional cast, lively staging and an abundance of virtual non-stop dancing, Spotlight Youth Theatre's 42nd Street is a knock out.

Spotlight Youth Theatre's production of 42n Street runs through September 13th, 2015 with performances at 10620 N 43rd Avenue in Glendale. Tickets and information can be found at or by calling 602.843.8318

Director: Kenny Grossman
Choreographer: Alicia Frazier
Musical Director: Heather Walker
Set Design: Bobby Sample
Costume Design: Rhea Courtney & Richard "Mickey" Courtney
Hair and Make-Up: Trey DeGroodt
Property Design: Bobby Sample, Katie Sample & Kenny Grossman
Lighting & Sound Design: Josh Hontz

Peggy Sawyer: Katie Czajkowski
Dorothy Brock: Kira Kadel
Ann Reilly (Anytime Annie): Sydnie Greger
Lorraine Flemming: Maggie Waller
Phyllis Dale: Jessica Wastchak
Maggie Jones: Camden Wawro
Diane Lorimer: Rachel Berry
Ethel: Samantha Johnson
Gladys: Thea Eigo

Julian Marsh: Michael Schulz
Billy Lawlor: Phoenix Briggs
Bert Barry: Jacob Herrera
Andy Lee: Cody H. Seaver
Abner Dillon: Alex Demski
Pat Denning: Charlie Rabago
Mac: Chase Oepdycke
Oscar: Riley Clark


Jessica Dolyniuk
Christa Fout
Tanya Whitten

Chris Cason
Philip Amerine
Brandon Brown

Amy Fishencord
Callista Walker
Zoey Waller

Photo: Alayne Vogel, Memory Layne Photography

--Gil Benbrook

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix