West End Theatre Guide London
42nd Street is a musical by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble with music by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. It is based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 film adaptation. The show premiered in Washington DC in June of 1980 before opening on Broadway in August of the same year and then in the West End in 1984.
42nd Street is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression when the American public were largely penniless, jobless and in dire need of a boost in spirits. The musical follows the story of Julian Marsh’s newest show, ‘Pretty Girl’, and its journey from conception to Broadway, through casting the chorus, gruelling rehearsals, losing a star and finding a new star.
The leading lady, Dorothy Brock, has been cast in ‘Pretty Girl’ for her name and because Julian Marsh’s show is in need of funding from her wealthy financial backer. Whilst Dorothy is far from ideal casting, forces changes on the show, and has a prima donna personality, when she is injured during the first performance, the whole production is thrown into jeopardy. This powerfully portrays the fragility of the fate of a show and its cast and creatives.
For the chorus, the show simply must go on and, recognising their reliance and dependence on each other for their livelihood, they band together with a real team spirit. Their saviour comes in the form of the young Peggy Sawyer. Plucked from the obscurity of Allentown, let into the chorus as an extra having missed the audition, and then thrust into the leading part, the chorus rally behind her despite her inexperience and nervous disposition.
It is inspirational to see Peggy’s debut as she takes to the stage as the leading lady and this gives a satisfying and happy ending to 42nd Street, as well as dismissing the idea that a naturally brilliant show needs a “big name” to be a glowing success.
Claire Halse (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ In The Rain, Gypsy) played Peggy Sawyer and was excellent in the role of the enthusiastic, jittery young dancer. Julian Marsh was played by Tom Lister (Legally Blonde, Calamity Jane, Water Babies the Musical) and was amazing in the role of the focused, dedicated director cracking the whip on his chorus. Sheena Easton (Man of La Mancha, Grease, numerous albums) starred as Dorothy Brock. Whilst these three were outstanding, the real power and inspiration of the show comes from the unity of the whole company and the importance of every cast member – the heart and soul of the show.
Dubin and Warren’s score is glitzy and jazzy, with standout numbers including: ‘We’re In The Money’, ‘Lullaby Of Broadway’ and ’42nd Street’.
42nd Street is a dazzling, glittering showcase of the beauty and talent of the chorus line, hooking the audience in from the very moment the curtain is raised showing a line of dancing feet tapping in perfect harmony. With sharp, stylish, synchronised choreographed routines from Randy Skinner and an outstanding cast, 42nd Street is the best dance musical in the West End.
42nd Street is showing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and is currently booking until 22nd July 2017 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, read our guide.