42nd Street

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

THERE is something quite hypnotic about a well performed tap routine. Something about the sound of a chorus of feet hoofing away immediately transforms you to the heyday of Hollywood.

This show's opening number does exactly that and delivers an energy that is mostly repeated throughout the evening.

42nd Street relies more on the pulse of its dance routines than the strength of its script to keep the audience entertained. The loose storyline involves a small time chorus girl who gets her big chance to shine and a big shot producer with the power to make dreams come true against a background of The Great Depression.

That's pretty much it in terms of plot but to dismiss it on that basis would be unfair. This is a show that comes alive when the routines kick into action, and Graeme Henderson's excellent choreography does not disappoint.  Big numbers need big ensembles and a huge injection of energy to do justice to classic songs like Lullaby of Broadway, Dames and. of course, 42nd Street itself.  The company, in this case, gets  it just right.

Dave Willetts as Broadway producer and starmaker Julian Marsh

Musical theatre heavyweight (as in reputation, not girth), Dave Willetts is assured and commanding as Broadway impressario, Julian Marsh.  His final rendition of 42nd Street  packs a real punch and is a reminder of just how good a singer he still is. The same, too, goes for Martii Webb as Dorothy Brock. Webb has a beautifully controlled and distinctive voice - showcased perfectly in the song I Only Have Eyes for You.  Jessica Punch as Peggy Sawyer, the small town girl made good, is a delight . . . and funny too.

A welcome nod to the genius of film director , Busby Berkeley comes in the form of a giant mirror hanging over the dancers in one routine, allowing the audience to see the shapes and formations from a birds eye perspective. A lovely effect but a little under used.

The overall ‘look' is vivid - a vast array of coloured costumes, smoky spotlights  and gaudy backdrops all of which add to the feel of a Broadway theatre on opening night. And no 42nd Street set would be complete without a huge staircase with lights on each level. Who wouldn't want to tap their way down one of those?

A small gripe . . . sound levels on the dialogue seemed very ‘ tinny' at times. Perhaps a tweak or two is needed. But hey! It's first night - it happens.

As the nights draw in and the cold weather bites, you could do a lot worse than sit and be entertained by this warm and glowing revival of a feel good show from UK Productions. Tap into it now, before it shuffles off somewhere else. To 03-11-12.

Tom Roberts 

A view from down the street . . .

****

ALTHOUGH set in 1933 at the height America's Great Depression, this award-winning musical still has the glamour, pace and passion to delight modern audiences.

Some of the first nighters at the Grand gave the revival of the famous song and dance show a standing ovation, and how the terrific cast deserved it.

There's never a dull moment in the story of small town girl Peggy Sawyer's dramatic rise from unknown chorus girl to a star when the leading lady of a Broadway musical, Pretty Lady, breaks an ankle.

Stunning tap dancing, spectacular costumes and memorable songs like Lullaby of Broadway, We're in the Money and Keep Young and Beautiful ensure the action zips along, and there are several outstanding performances.

Jessica Punch sparkles as Peggy, with Marti Webb singing beautifully in the role of injured star Dorothy Brock and Birmingham's Dave Willetts superb as the gravel-voiced Broadway director Julian Marsh.

Directed by Mark Bramble with Graeme Henderson's slick choreography and Gareth Williams' musical supervision. To 03.11.12

Paul Marston

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