North Shore Music Theatre's current show is the Tony Award winning musical "42nd Street". It is loosely based on the 1933 musical with the same name. The stage musical version opened on August 25, 1980 and ran until January 8, 1989 and starred Jerry Orbach as Julian Marsh and Tammy Grimes as Dorothy Brock. "42nd Street" is the tale of up and coming chorus girl Peggy Sawyer who arrives in NY seeking a Broadway career. Unfortunately she misses the audition for Pretty Lady but the suave tenor, Billy Lawlor, is attracted to Peggy and gets her to sing with him to get noticed by Julian Marsh who puts her into the show. (This is after she almost knocks him over like a football lineman.) During an out of town tryout in Philadelphia, Peggy accidentally trips and pushes Dorothy Brock, the prima-donna leading lady, causing her to fall and break her ankle. (This is how the first act ends.) After this, Julian fires Peggy who decides to head back home to Allentown, PA. Billy and the chorus convince Julian to persuade Peggy to stay with show and take over the lead. They convince her to return while singing "Lullaby of Broadway" and Peggy becomes a star. Director Charles Repole, music director Craig Barna and choreographer, Michael Lichtefeld, infuse this show with the energy needed for this big dance extravaganza musical to become a masterpiece of musical theater. The unbelievable tap dancing and vocal prowess of this huge cast leads the audience to cheers in some of the numbers during the show and to reward it with a well deserved standing ovation at the close of it.
Charles casts the best people for each of these roles and they more than deliver the goods in them. But since this is a dancing show, the choreography is of utmost importance and Michael recreates some of Gower Champion's original choreography. The precision of the dancers is astounding to behold especially in the opening group tap dance. ( Loved the wing steps), "We're in the Money", "Lullaby of Broadway" and "42nd Street" in Act 2. Michael's dance's include all the different styles of tap plus the Charleston, kick line and soft shoe to name a few. Craig's orchestra is outstanding and the quality of the vocalists is superb especially in "Dames", "Lullaby" and the title number. Scenic design is by Jeff Modereger who used to design sets at Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck, RI (still doing impressive work in this theatre in the round) and the multitude of gorgeous costumes are by Costume World Theatricals. (especially impressive are the tap outfits, Dorothy's gowns and Peggy's blue dress in the finale. Kudos to the artistic staff and for new artistic director and executive producer Barry Ivan who is an outstanding choreographer in his own right. (Finally met Barry at the show last evening after having reviewed numerous productions he has worked on throughout these past few years.)
Patrick Ryan Sullivan tackles the role of Julian Marsh, (originally played by Jerry Orbach who I saw in the role in 1980)the hard ass director who builds Peggy's confidence in herself to become a star. He played the same role on the road and on Broadway for two years. Patrick sings the lead in "Lullaby of Broadway" and the finale number "42nd Street". He has the needed brassiness for the role, playing the role to the hilt.(His teaching Peggy, the it was grand, grand segment is hilarious and shows his comic side of the role.) Playing the bitchy diva, Dorothy Brock is Beth Glover. She is topnotch in this role and all her costumes are breathtakingly gorgeous. Beth rants and raves about wanting to be treated as the star, as Dorothy. (The character is like a 1930's Cruella Deville.) Her renditions of "The Shadow Waltz", "Getting to be a Habit with Me" and the duet "About a Quarter to Nine" are wonderful but her best number is the tear jerking "I Only Have Eyes for You" where she realizes the man for her is Pat Denning. (A wonderful torch song!) Melissa Lone shines as the ingenue, Peggy Sawyer. The girl is not only beautiful but she has a fantastic voice and terrific dancing skills, too. Melissa infuses this character with the necessary charm and naive behavior to pull off this role. She does an excellent job in "Young and Healthy" (Charleston-dance) duet, "Go into your Dance" group number, where she dances the better than the other three girls, the rehearsal scenes with Julian Marsh where she learns how to act after he kisses her several times and her best number, "42nd Street" with the chorus. Wonderful job by the young girl. (She recently finished playing Maggie in "A Chorus Line" on Broadway for a whole year.)
One of the best voices in this show is Todd Lattimore who plays Billy. His voice soars off the charts in "Dames" and "Lullaby". (Todd gets to show off a more tender side to the character as he sings the reprise of "I Only Have Eyes for You".) He also a fantastic dancer, getting to strut his stuff all night long especially impressive is the "42nd Street" finale where he is dressed up as a sailor who get shot while dancing with Peggy) Two scene stealing performers are Susan Cella as Maggie and Joel Blum as Andy. Susan shows off her voice and dancing skills in "Go into Your Dance", "Getting to Be a Habit with Me" and "Shuffle off the Buffalo" (while in a sleeper berth on a train.) Joel leads the cast in the opening audition dance song, "Getting Out of Town" with the chorus and "Shuffle off to Buffalo" while dressed as the groom who strips down to his skivvies complete with garters on his socks.) His bride in this latter song is played by Mara Newberry. Mara plays Anytime Annie who is a dynamite dancer and singer. (She gets to lead the chorus in "There's a Sunny Side to Every Situation") She and Alyssa Alter as Phyllis and Cassie Abate as Lorraine, the rich Park Avenue dame, get to tap dance wonderfully and have some scene stealing moments as the bubble headed chorines. Dorothy's two suitors are wonderfully played by Hardy Rawls as Abner Dillon her rich sugar daddy and by Gary Lindemann as Pat Denning, her true love and vaudeville partner. Both men are excellent, pulling off their roles with ease. Kudos to all of this hard working and superb cast as well as to everyone who helped with this show. So for a trip back to the 1930's and a rollicking good time, be sure to catch "42nd Street" at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA. You will be glad you did.