Review: 42nd Street (Curve)
Curve’s revival of 42nd Street is on the money as a timeless adaptation performed by an almighty cast.
Photo by Johan Persson
This backstage story set in the midst of the Great Depression, sees Broadway’s top director Julian Marsh (a confident and stern Adam Garcia) and his attempts to get a new show off the ground. Pretty Lady has its producers (a comedic double act in Les Dennis and Josefina Gabrielle), an investor, and perhaps most importantly, a star. What could possibly go wrong?
Ruthie Henshall’s inimitable repertoire gives her great authority as our show’s show’s leading lady, Dorothy Brock. Beside Nicole-Lily Baisden as the doe-eyed chorus girl turn hero Peggy Sawyer, the two are figureheads of aspiration in musical theatre and the poster girls of dreams being realised. Henshall gives a masterclass in performance.
Channeling her Allentown enthusiasm, Baisden is a force to be reckoned with. As the book predicts; she goes out there a youngster and comes back a star, owed partly to the likeable Sawyer.
The almighty ensemble of triple threats are put through their paces by Bill Deamer who has adapted the much-loved original choreography by Gower Champion. A long row stretches as toes tap and heads turn in quick unison, enabling their dancing feet to become an auditorium-filling instrument that only elevates the voluminous big band - led with gusto by Jennifer Whyte. To dive into this show within a show is the ideal form of escapism.
As love interest Billy Lawlor, Sam Lips showcases his impressive tenor voice, and Garcia’s Julian Marsh lets his guard down on the golden stairway as he brings the house down in a rousing outro.
The final number is worth the admission alone. Ben Cracknell casts a bold red streetlight onto Sawyer as the rumblings of the title number start before exploding into a tap take on a Pasodoble. There’s New York grit and a fiery attitude as the company go full pelt and are released from the line. There’s even some chair-ography.
It’s a refreshing and a welcome change in pace to whimsical romanticised performances of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s songs. Of which the high pitched ear worm “We’re In The Money” and unrivalled enthusiasm of “Getting Out Of Town” warm the heart. At its best, the stage is awash with blue hues and waves of sequins and feathers. Robert Jones’ classic showgirl costumes are rightfully on parade, but sometimes cast against a flat backdrop of the scenes in Pretty Lady - though only noticed if you can distract from the high-kicks.
Under Jonathon Church’s direction, 42nd Street hasn’t been reimagined so much, but remade in a way that gives it legs to be seen, and enjoyed, by the masses.
42nd Street plays at Curve before transferring to Sadler's Wells, then there'll be a cast change as it heads on tour.