Now three decades old but with its heart set firmly back in the razzle dazzle 1930’s the multi Tony Award winning musical 42nd Street is back on the road. It’s a timely revival too bringing some much needed sparkle and glam back to a country that’s being relentlessly battered by the weather on one side and the economy on the other. Actually the musical’s setting, the great depression of 1933, and its theme of ‘the show must go on’ couldn’t be more appropriate right now...just add that routine from ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ and it would be pretty much the perfect ‘keep calm and carry on’ night out.
For anyone still not familiar with the plot it focuses on the efforts of a director who’s lost most of his fortune in the stock market crash to stage a budget busting musical with a fading star, despite the fact that most of the population haven’t got two cents to rub together. See? It couldn’t be more relevant. Well, I suppose you could have Bob Diamond singing ‘We’re In The Money’ but I guess he’s got other things to concentrate on right now. Anyway, add the odd love triangle, a broken ankle and enough glitz and glamour to give Craig Revel Horwood a stiffie and you’ve got musical gold.
Unless you’ve been locked in a box all your life you’ll already know quite a few of the tunes too. Some are just ingrained in our collective DNA...Keep Young and Beautiful, We’re In The Money, Lullaby Of Broadway, 42nd Street, I Only Have Eyes For You...each one sets off a Pavlovian response and thanks to the endless enthusiasm and energy of the cast it’s pretty hard to resist leaping up, tapping your way down the aisle and giving it some ‘jazz hands’.
The stars of the show, musical stalwarts Marti Webb (celebrating an incredible half century in musical theatre) and local boy made good Dave Willets, are both in fine voice injecting plenty of emotion, especially in their solo numbers (Webb’s I Only Have Eyes For You and Willets show closing 42nd Street). Jessica Punch captures the talented but accident prone Peggy perfectly, getting some great laughs during the second act, and Graham Hoadly is delightfully theatrical as Bert Barry. It’s the full company numbers that really steal the limelight though with a number of taptastic routines mainlining glam right into your frontal lobe. Heightened by the simple but effective staging (the use of lighting and mirrors worked particularly well) the magical spirit of ol’ Busby Berkeley was well and truly bought back to life. Add some distinctly sparkly costumes from a recent US production and some gorgeous 30’s style ozone-layer-busting hair dos and it was easy to lose yourself in tapland right from the moment the curtain went up. An irresistible dose of glitz guaranteed to brighten even the dullest of days.
42nd Street plays at the New Alexandra Theatre until Friday 13th July before hitting the road and touring the UK until the end of November.
PS: For the vintage aficionados out there here's the trailer for the original 1933 film that the musical was based on. Beautiful stuff...