The energy and dazzle of 42ND STREET has made its way to Segerstrom Center for the Arts with all of its tap dancing glory. The lively show is truly classic Broadway at its finest. Fans of musical theater and dance can’t skip this one. It’s a show full of jolliness and jazz hands that’s reminiscent of the Broadway shows of old. You’ll be treated to a fast pace bright and cheery non-stop-fun musical experience that’s your quintessential Broadway show, and it’s all right here in Costa Mesa.
42nd Street began on Broadway in 1980 with its on-stage adaptation of the 1933 movie musical of the same name featuring now near classic jazz standards from Harry Warren. It has since become the 14th longest running production on Broadway featuring a Tony award winning revival show in 2001. Today’s touring production still contains the spirit, endless music and flashy dancing you’ll be attending for, but lacks some of the grandioseness set and production value from the revival. However, if I never knew there was any type of scaled back set-design, I’m sure I would have never noticed an issue.
The more-or-less simplistic story tells the tale of a starry-eyed innocent young dancer named Peggy Sawyer (Caitlin Ehlinger) who leaves her Allentown home and comes to 1933 New York to audition for a new Broadway musical produced by the legendary Broadway giant Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor). The bulk of the story follows Peggy on her journey to becoming a cast member of the new production, Pretty Lady, but faces her own struggles in believing herself. When opportunity of becoming the shows leading star comes knocking at her door, she must overcome her personal battles to help save the show from ending its run short.
While the shows plot may seem simple and more a tale as old as time, 42nd Street is not as much about the plot but rather the dancing and phenomenal performances. Many of the songs do feature tap dancing or a large choreographed large number. Many songs may be somewhat familiar even if you aren’t already knowledgable of the show, which can help man casual theater goers entertained.
Songs such as the ridiculous yet well-loved “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway” eclipse any faulty foot work and lack of top-notch singing by featuring countless dancers and intricately designed choreography that can get the audiences hootin’ and hollerin’ finishing with an abrupt thunderous applause. Much of the show features such moments with many highs are only a couple of lows that are only for the nitpickers.
There’s the appropriate level of humor strung around mostly from the Pretty Lady’s production runner Maggie Jones (Britte Steele), which is her own character gravitating from all sorts of slapstick humor and overacting that plays to the audiences perfectly, but never annoying. The interactions from all the actors contain a portion of overacting that plays well for this show and feels more like an early 1900s musical production. Fitting.
Matthew J. Taylor who plays Julian Marsh is the breakout character in my opinion. His Howard Hughes ‘30s accent is done superbly yet still has a touch of over-the-topness to make it truly standout. It’s comical, but is exactly as one would imagine in this romanticized version of 1930’s Broadway. His forced upon star of the show Dorothy Brock (Kaitlin Lawrence) has the greatest vocal chops in the show even though she was supposed to play a character that practically paid her way into the starring role of Marsh’s show. I suppose I would rather have to listen to ill-fitted incredible voice than a forced dumb downed vocal performance.
However, there is the star of the show, Peggy, who is played thru the innocence of Caitlin Ehlinger. Her role couldn’t have been casted any better for this cute naive young inspiring actress character, except for one vital part, her singing just never got there for me. She is supposed to be the savior of the show and the cast fully believes in her, but she never felt stronger enough for the leading lady she is supposed to represent. Ehlinger is extremely talented and an absolute delight, but only for the first half of the play. I hate critiquing in this area as I am not one to judge, but it’s worth noting her presence didn’t feel right as the leading lady in the show within the show.
Regardless, this is an ensemble cast with probably the most people I have seen on stage at one time. It’s a true site to behold during the larger numbers of the musical.
The focal point also holds true for the set production as your attention will be focused on the countless beautiful tap-dancing legs onstage. Some may know I adore lavish sets and big set pieces, yet I was still perfectly content with this shows overall set design. Featured are mostly well-done large “painted” back drops and a rare moveable set until the latter half where larger “wow-factored” set pieces are presented. It helps build the show consistently and never gets in the way of enjoyable dancing and singing. Something can be said for its design as it establishes a tone of being a classic musical feel to combat with the over-the-top sets and productions we can see in shows of today.
42nd Street is one of the liveliest and brightest shows you’ll ever see on stage. Benefiting from a mostly positive light hearted show, it’s just a good ole’ time. Never dull or a bore. 42nd Street will have you cheering and smiling throughout and wont leave you in any awkward dark moments or deep conversations after the final curtain draw. This is Broadway entertainment and after all, exactly what the show bills itself as.
42nd Street is playing at Segerstrom Center of the Arts in Costa Mesa until November 22nd.
For more information visit SCFTA.org.