State of the world got you down? Feeling blue over someone orange in the house that’s white? You need a dose of feel-good, toe-tapping razzmatazz, and Studio 58’s 42ND STREET is just the ticket to put a smile on your face.
This production of one of Broadway’s most successful shows is veritably bursting with energy, charm and delight. It gets off to a fine, funny start right from the preshow speech, then explodes onto the stage with a ferocious, infectious energy. From the first big tap number, featuring a battalion of dancers pounding out thrilling firecracker steps, the show maintains its high spirits right through to the final curtain.
This is not a show for those who like dark undertones, moody atmosphere or cynical realism. And frankly, with so much of that sort of thing freely available in the headlines or on our Facebook feed, a show like this fills a great need – for an evening that lifts you up, makes you laugh, and leaves you feeling as effervescent as a glass of champagne. This production truly embraces its classic Broadway fairy-tale origins, with a cast that pulls off something I don’t often see in nostalgic shows – they seem authentically transplanted from 1930’s New York. The entire cast perfectly channels the brassy style and rat-a-tat delivery of a 1930’s musical.
42nd Street may trade in now-familiar cliches of a hoofer with dreams of glory who finds success on Broadway, but it wouldn’t work without that core of warm-hearted affection for the theatre, and all the hard-working people who make it happen. Director Barbara Tomasic and a big team of talented folks have achieved something really special here.
As it happens, I’ve seen 42nd Street previously in both the U.S. touring production in San Francisco, and at Royal City Musical Theatre in New West, and both were pretty large in scale. I wondered how the show could be effectively translated to the relatively cramped confines of the Studio 58 space.
I needn’t have worried. The performances were so engaging and funny, the classic story so compelling, and the dancing – especially the group tap numbers – so thrilling, that I never felt I was missing out on a thing. And in terms of the physical production, the space was used very creatively, from the initial projected montage of Depression-era bread line footage that perfectly sets the context, to numbers like “Shadow Waltz” that make wonderful use of shadows on the back scrim.
The show’s signature set-pieces feel perfectly intact and in no way reduced in impact, like the two-level train car for “Shuffle off to Buffalo” – how did they fit that thing in? – or perhaps the most iconic moment, “We’re In the Money” featuring a stage full of smiling, glittering, dollar-bill-bedecked dancers tapping away on giant coins.
The choreography by Julie Tomaino is sharp, snappy and well-executed by a cast that (as they admitted post-show) are not really tap dancers. Well, they did an amazing job of convincing me they’d been hoofing it on Broadway for years.
I also have to mention the costumes, which really stood out to me with their range and style, from stylish day dresses in authentic Depresion-era colours, to elegant evening wear, to the fanciful dollar-bill-bedecked “We’re In The Money” outfits.
The cast is wonderful. Krista Skwarok and Julien Galipeau bring steamer-trunkfuls of charm as, respectively, Peggy Sawyer, the innocent ingenue in the chorus line who gets called on to play the starring role, and Billy Lawlor, the romantic lead player who falls for her. Matthias Falvai brings authority to his role as stage impresario Julian Marsh. David Johnston and Elizabeth Barrett make a fine comic pair as the writers Bert Barry and Maggie Jones. And the chorus girls round things out with well-timed comic business and, of course, great dancing. Among them, Emily Doreen Wilson stood out for me as a vivacious, voluptuous talent with great comedic presence. And Stephanie Wong shines as Dorothy Brock, the vain and demanding star who crosses swords with young Peggy.
Musically, the ever-talented and rock-solid musical director Christopher King leads a tight sextet that manages to sound like a band twice its size.
It would be a crime if even a single seat went unfilled for the run of this dazzling and delightful musical treat. Don’t miss it!