The wonder of theatre. The awe of choreographic perfection. The swinging beats of 1930s jazz. It can only be 42nd Street.
The smash-hit, award-winning ‘original showbiz musical’ has taken to the stage at the Wales Millennium Centre and we were lucky enough to be invited to come and review it.
Before this I had never seen this musical and didn’t know much about it but I’d only heard good things. So my expectations were pretty high going in. And it’s safe to say I’ve never seen anything quite like this show. From the very first opening number you are pulled into 1930’s Broadway, enchanted by the magic of old theatre. The big lights, the flashy numbers and too many sequins to count.
The story follows small town girl Peggy Sawyer, portrayed by Rhianna Dorris, who dreams of treading the boards on a Broadway stage. Finally given her big break, Peggy quickly realises the fast-paced, unpredictable world of theatre as she is pushed to her limits. Set alongside the shadowy background of 1933 New York, where times are tough and money is scarce, the brand new show directed by famous broadway director Julian Marsh (portrayed by Michael Praed) could be the shining light that promises that there is a Sunny Side to Every Situation.
This show is a display of everything we love about classic musical theatre. The bright lights, the big numbers, the gentle comedy. Couple that with an incredibly talented cast, what more could you want. This performance had a last minute cast change, and Rhianna Dorris as Peggy Sawyer who took to the stage and wowed the audience from start to finish. Her high energy performance was intoxicating as she stepped into the fast-tapping shoes of this iconic character. Michael Praed portrayal as the stern (but fair) broadway director Julian Marsh was brilliant, he held his presence on stage, commanding it in a way a director should. Sam Lips as the flirtatious tenor Billy Lawlor stunned audiences with his perform. His incredible dancing skills and smashed the iconic numbers such as ‘Dames’ and ‘Young And Healthy’.
Faye Tozer and Les Dennis as the musical-writing duo Maggie Jones and Bert Barry portrayed the comedic dynamic between the two characters and were easily an audience favourite. And of course, the talented Samantha Womack as Dorothy Brock was remarkable. Her performance of songs such as ‘You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me’ and ‘About A Quarter To Nine’ left me with goosebumps. And the rest of the cast, Erica-Jayne Alden, George Beet, Charlie Bishop, Kevin Brewis, Olly Christopher, Briana Craig, Jordan Crouch, Ashleigh Graham, Alyn Hawke, Aimee Hodnett, Connor Hughes, Deja Linton, Sarah-Marie Maxwell, Greta McKinnon, Ben Middleton, Benjamin Mundy and Jessica Wright, all of whom helped bring this story to life and reminded us of why we all love the theatre.
I’ve always been a fan of the ‘play within a play’ storyline but it can be tricky to pull off, without the storyline becoming too entangled and it can often come across as forced. But this production of 42nd Street executed it perfectly. And the commentary of Broadway culture during a fictional show in a real show. Genius.
The choreography in the show is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The complex, upbeat, jazzy tap numbers had the audience dancing out the theatre. And it’s no surprised that it came from the mind of one of Britain’s leading choreographers and directors, Bill Deamer.
If you’re looking to experience the magic and wonder of classic Broadway theatre, this is the show to see. 42nd Street is only at the Millennium until the 19th August and tickets are selling out fast, so get yours now! And for more information on what’s going on at the WMC you can visit their website, Facebook and Instagram.
All photo credits to Michelle George and Johan Persson