’42nd Street’ delivers first class performances

42nd Street | Regal Theatre | Until 24 June | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The last time I saw the musical 42nd Street was a Drury Lane Theatre in the West End in the eighties. On that occasion the role of young ingenue Peggy Sawyer was played by Catherine Zeta Jones.

It was the Welsh actress breakthrough role on the London stage, years before she appeared on a television screens in The Darling Buds of May and a good decade before she achieved international fame with The Mask of Zorro. 

Heading into this local production by students from the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be another moment where I got to observe a talented performer taking some of the first steps of their career, WAAPA does after all have a pretty impressive track record.

This show is overloaded with talented performances, and while careers in the performing arts can be unpredictable, the cast of this show will hopefully be able to get their foot through the door of the next stage of their journey, having shown that they can sing, dance, act, and sparkle in a Broadway classic.

The first incarnation of ’42nd Street’, which is based on a 1932 novel, was in Hollywood’s Golden Days during the great depression. The 1933 film, choreographed by the great Busby Berkley, was an extravaganza of its time featured Ginger Rogers’ break out role.

In 1980 the story was brought to Broadway taking in many of the Harry Warren and Al Dublin songs in the original film, alongside other works they wrote during their career. It ran for

In the wake of the Wall Street crash of 1929, time are tough. Theatre director Julian Marsh is set to direct Pretty Lady a new show from musical couple Maggie Jones and Bert Barry. Singers and dancers are eager to get a part in the production.

Fresh off the boat from Allentown a young and ambitious Peggy Sawyer arrives at the casting call, but she’s too late for the auditions. She strikes up a friendship with the show’s energetic young leading man Billy Lawlor, and when Marsh realises he’s one girl short in his casting Peggy scrapes into the chorus line.

Pretty Lady has many challenges though, leading lady Dorothy Brock can’t dance but because the financier for the show is her wealthy boyfriend that creative team have to make it work. To complicate matters Brock is cheating in her sugar daddy with her old vaudeville partner Pat Denning.

When things go wrong during the show’s out of town test run, all eyes turn to the talented new girl in the chorus line. Can Peggy Sawyer step up and save the show?

As musicals go, this is one of the most challenging. The iconic score is filled with well known songs like We’re in the Money, The Lullaby of Broadway and the title tune 42nd Street. 

It’s the musical about musicals, a homage to The Great White Way. Anyone who has stood on the corner of Times Square, at the intersection of Broadway and 42nd Street, has probably hummed the tune.It has big production numbers, and tap dancing – an unforgiving dance form that bellows out any misplaced steps.

The young WAAPA cast show their triple threat talents and deliver a sensational night of entertainment. Mackenzie Dunn takes on the role of Peggy Sawyer showing off her song and dance skills, and she’s got a smile that shines all the way to the back row of the theatre. Dunn successfully portrays Sawyer’s journey from wide eyed newcomer to confident performer.

Lucy Ross is great as Dorothy Brock, successfully playing a role which has traditionally been played by an older actor, and Joshua White commands attention as director Julian Marsh. Tom New’s portrayal of Billy Lawler is filled with enthusiasm and Laura Jackson nails the part of Maggie Jones, delivering one of the perfect portrayals of a great dame.

With a live orchestra, massive chorus line and a classic story filled with great songs and dance numbers this is a musical experience that is overflowing with talented performances.

The staging and costuming is admirable for a student production, WAAPA graduate Sarah Duyvestyn returned to the fold to design the costumes for this production, and delivered a fresh take on the show’s 1930’s styles.

Come and meet those dancing feet and hear the songs with the melody you’ll love.

Graeme Watson, image: Jon Green


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