In 42nd Street, the characters are excited to be cast in a new Broadway musical, not just because of their careers, but because the economy is bad and they’re grateful for the jobs. Sound familiar at all? Luckily, even if you haven’t been touched by the recession, the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of 42nd Street gives you a lot for your money—lots of singing, lots of dancing, and lots and lots of fun.
Right from the very beginning, the talented ensemble cast comes out to perform a dance number, ostensibly the characters’ auditions for the new musical. The dancers trot out a little soft-shoe, which gradually gets faster and faster, then more and more complicated. By the end, it’s surprising that they haven’t collapsed from exhaustion. Unfortunately for the dance but fortunately for the audience, they don’t get much of a rest, either. The musical continues at the break-neck pace of the dancing, staging these show-stopping, full-ensemble numbers every few scenes or so—with the elaborate costumes and other trimmings, of course. (Contestants on Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance who think they have it rough because they have to perform one routine a week should check this out.) For a small stage, they certainly pack a ton of show onto it.
While the endlessly impressive tap-dancing is the show’s main draw, and they deliver with plenty of it, it doesn’t encompass all of the production’s charms. The songs do their fair share of the work, many of them being old favorites: “Young and Healthy,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “We’re in the Money,” “The Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”—the list goes on. While it’s always an ensemble show, the few moments when the stars step into the spotlight solo are simultaneously laid-back and impressive, especially when Dorothy Brock (Dorothy Stanley) takes on the title song, and when Julian Marsh (Tom Galantich) takes the lead in the beginning of “The Lullaby of Broadway.” Actress Shannon O’Bryan, who plays the show’s ingénue, Peggy Sawyer, has played the same role in other companies across the United States, and she has the wide-eyed part down pat.
Like most shows about putting on shows, the plot is wafer-thin, with only the tiniest bits of dialogue shuffling the characters from one scene to the next. As such, heading out to 42nd Street is an easy night of entertainment. There are no real villains, and there are no heavy themes. The characters don’t overcome any heart-rending traumas like certain Broadway shows today. (I’m looking at you, Next to Normal, for making me bawl right before bringing the lights up for intermission. You don’t have to worry about red, puffy eyes at 42nd Street.) You can just sit back, watch the cast race from number to number, and get lost in a little sparkle.
42nd Street will be at the Westchester Broadway Theatre until November 29, then it will come back again on December 30 and run through February 6, 2010.
Photos by John Vecchiolla