This is a production that can only be talked about in superlatives. The best: cast, design, direction, choreography, lighting – you name it, it’s the very best. It is rare and delightful to see such quality permeate every aspect of a show.
Based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 Hollywood movie adaptation, it wasn’t until 1980 that we got 42nd Street – a stage musical version of this story of a stage musical.
Essentially the story of the rehearsal process of a Broadway show staged during the Great Depression. Our heroine Peggy Sawyer (Nicole Lily-Baisden) is fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, now standing in front of the bright lights of Broadway. We see Peggy win her place in the spotlight over the faded star Dorothy Brock (Samantha Womack) whose beau is holding the purse-strings of the production.
It features the familiar classics: We’re in the Money, Lullaby of Broadway, I Only Have Eyes For You, Keep Young and Beautiful and of course, the title song 42nd Street.
Nostalgia sells and this is no exception. With solid material to work with, a glossy staging and a star-studded cast, it really can’t fail. That said, the care taken with this production shines through. Every consideration has been given to the setting and era. There is an appropriately muted but classy palette and historically accurate costume design reflective of the Great Depression. There’s the use of subtle projections to evoke the neon lights of Broadway. There’s plenty of corny dialogue too, but it pulls it off with an authenticity that adds to the overall atmosphere of the production. The live orchestra is exceptional.
The cast are sublime in every role, the singing note perfect, the acting on point and the diction is the the best I’ve heard in many years. Particularly perfect is Sam Lips as Tenor Billy Lawlor a real stage star.
This is a show you should be screaming about from the rooftops. A real class act worth every one of its five stars.
Runs until 26 August 2023 | Images: Johan Persson/Michelle George