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Can’t stop tapping my feet…on 42nd Street

If only song and dance were could be medically prescribed we would all be feeling better about our lives.

I entered the Theatre Royal Drury Lane having little knowledge of 42nd Street and left in a state of heightened happiness, brought on by all that toe-tapping.

Set in Depression era New York, the plot revolves around a little theatre whose glowing lights and Dollar signs bring everyone from the Mafia to the ingenue to the backstage door. 42nd Street is a story of ambition, comradeship and the relentless pursuit of the American Dream. The premise (of the 1933 film starring Ginger Rogers that it’s based on) hasn’t aged a day.

Broadway producers Jones (employing a nice gender-change from the film, 76 years later) and Barry are putting the finishing touches to Pretty Lady, a musical about a star, and they want established star Dorothy Brock as their lead (Sheena Easton, in fine voice) even though she’s a dame past her best, according to the local critics. Brock is very keen to remain centre stage, and that means keeping Abner, her sugar-daddy-cum-musical financier happy at all costs. But her heart belongs to a younger, poorer actor called Pat.

My heart doesn’t belong to this part of the story, which the film had put front of centre. Instead, I became invested in fresh-off-the-bus Peggy Sawyer (Claire Halse – giving a tour de force in every discipline), who stumbles into the rehearsals of Pretty Lady and floors all of the cast with her talent and charm. Peggy lands in the arms of Julian Marsh, a Musical auteur played by Emmerdale’s Tom Lister, hired by Jones and Barry to make Pretty Lady a hit. Peggy’s journey from nobody to star mirrors the the trials and tribulations of putting on a Broadway show, both she and the show must impress the backers, her fellow dancers, Julian and Brock – the whole ensemble – in order to succeed.

And really that’s the word to sum up this production, ensemble. 42nd Street is as much a display of collaborative and communal rhythm as it is a musical.

With A Chorus Line and An American in Paris also playing, London is currently privy to shows that focus on the hoofer’s aesthetic – perhaps as a bi-product of the La La Land effect. However, 42nd Street is truly phenomenal in its delivery of the necessary choreography. Fifty people dancing in complete syncopation is a sight to see and, also, entertainingly, to hear. This, coupled with multi-tonal staging show exactly where the lavish production spend went.

As a celebration of every creative’s story in every colour (from the rainbow hue of the costumes to better promotion of non-caucasian players than most musicals, albeit with still a way to go) 42nd Street was a joy. I salute every one of those hoofers – it’s not just about the stars, all of the players deserved my applause. There’s nothing like a team.

Find out more and get your tickets here.

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