John Deaderick: The Great White Way still shining
Special to The Union
Know & Go
WHO: Sierra Cinemas Presents
WHAT: “42nd Street”
WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Sierra Cinemas, E. Main Street Grass Valley
TICKETS: $18 adults, $15 seniors, children 12 and under and students with ID. Available online at www.sierratheaters.com or at the Sierra Cinemas Box Office
INFO: Visit www.sierratheaters.com, or call 530-477-9000
The current and thoroughly entertaining revival of 42nd Street features dazzling sets, colorful costumes, and very engaging performances.
This iteration is based on the 1933 film 42nd Street, which was a huge box office hit and an Academy Award nominee.
It showcased the talents of the soon-to-be-legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley, crooner Dick Powell as Billy, and star Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer. The plot is simple. Naïve Pennsylvania girl comes to the bright lights of the big city, lands a job in the chorus of a Broadway musical directed by a desperate and broke Julian Marsh. Lots of back-stage hijinks, lots of drama, a bit of pre-Code sexual innuendo, and much fabulous music ensues. Of course, at opening night, the lead can’t go on and Peggy Sawyer takes her place to great acclaim.
The film offered up “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me,” “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” and the terrific title track. Perhaps most memorable are Berkeley’s sensational choreographed numbers. Reviewers at the time loved everything about it. John Mosher of The New Yorker called the show “a bright movie” with “as pretty a little fantasy of Broadway as you may hope to see.” In the original novel by Bradford Hopes, the characters Julian and Billy are lovers. That was a big no-no then, so the film substituted a romance between Billy and Peggy.
Fast forward to 1980 for the Tony Award winning stage adaptation directed by Gower Champion. For this production, period songs from other shows by the film’s composers Al Dubin and Harry Warren were added. The 2001 revival also won the Tony. Life imitated art in the 1984 London Production when then unknown teenager Catherine Zeta-Jones found herself out of the chorus and into the lead.
And now this offering. Colorful, stunningly danced and with some truly fine singing, the show never lags, keeps those feet tapping throughout. Tom Lister’s Julian Marsh, the tough as nails director with a marshmallow heart, shows off some fine vocal chops. Dorothy Brock, the aging prima donna who wants to give it all up for love, gets quite the star turn from Bonnie Langford. I really loved the onscreen charisma of Peggy’s pal “Anytime Annie” (get it?), originally played by Ginger Rogers; here, Emma Caffrey dazzles.
Completely over the top, totally devoid of subtlety, and absolutely predictable, this 42nd Street exudes nothing but fun.
John Deaderick is a local theatre artist and the author of Make Sweet the Minds of Men: Early Opera and Tragic Catharsis, available at Amazon.com.
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