Theatre Mirror Reviews - "42 Street"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"42nd Street"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Norton SIngers is the Tony Award winning musical "42nd Street" with a huge cast of 36 performers. It is loosely based on the 1933 movie musical with the same name which starred Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. The stage musical version opened on August 25, 1980 and ran until January 8, 1989, won the Tony Award for Best Musical 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 New York seeking a Broadway career. It focuses on the efforts of famed dictatorial Great White Way director Julian Marsh to mount a successful stage production of "Pretty Lady" a musical extravaganza at the height of the Great Depression. Unfortunately for Peggy, she misses the audition for the show but suave tenor, Billy Lawlor, is attracted to her 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. After this, Julian Marsh fires Peggy at the end of Act 1. She decides to leave New York and head back home to Allentown, PA. Billy and the chorus convince Julian to persuade Peggy to stay with the show and take over the lead. They convince her to return to the show while singing "Lullaby of Broadway" and Peggy becomes a star. Director Greg Geer, musical director Anthony Torelli and choreographer, Judee Bottomley, who recreated the dance steps of Pam Sheiber and Gower Champion, infuse this show with the energy needed for this big musical dance extravaganza musical to become a masterpiece of musical theatre. The unbelievable tap dancing and vocal prowess of this huge cast leads the audience to cheer some of the numbers during the show and rewards it with a standing ovation at the close of it.

Greg plays up the melodramatic aspect of the 1930's style show and finds humorous bits to throw in to keep the audience entertained for example when the chorus girls thrust ostrich feathers in Dorothy's face during "The Shadow Waltz". Anthony conducts 16 superb musicians who make the gorgeous 1930's music soar from start to finish. Since this is a dancing show Judee comes up with many different style dances including the Charleston, cakewalk and the entire cast executes them perfectly. The set design is by Pete Molitor with several backdrops and easily moved set pieces on and off the stage. Amanda Downing Carney designed the plentiful 1930's costumes while Al Cunningham designed the sound, lighting is by Indigo Design. Kevin Mischley stands out in this show as he tackles the role of Julian Marsh constantly smoking a cigarette,(originally played by Jerry Orbach who I saw in this role in 1980) the hard ass director who gives Peggy the confidence in herself to become a star. Kevin sings the lead in "Lullaby of Broadway" and the finale number "42nd Street". He has the needed brassiness for the role when he makes her learn everything quickly. Kevin plays it to the hilt especially when he gives Peggy an acting lesson on how to say it was grand, grand (kissing her several times) and when she improves on how to say it afterwards is hilarious. This gives him a chance to show off his comic side. (I've reviewed Kevin several times and he always does a great job. Some of the shows include "Jekyl and Hyde", "Crazy For You", "Annie Get Your Gun", "Oklahoma'' and "Anything Goes" for which he won an award.) Playing the bitchy diva, Dorothy Brock is Janet Ferreri. She is topnotch in this role. Janet rants and raves about wanting to be treated as the star as Dorothy. The character is like a 1930's version of Cruella Deville. Janet's renditions of "The Shadow Waltz", "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me" while dancing with Lenny and the duet with Peggy called "A Quarter to Nine" are wonderful and she also does "I Know Now" when she realizes the man for her is Pat Denning. Janet also won an award last year for playing Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes" and I also reviewed her in "Pal Joey" a few years ago, too. Atia Gravely shines as the ingenue Peggy Sawyer. This girl is not only beautiful but she has a fantastic voice and terrific dancing skills, too. Atia infuses this character with the necessary charm and naive behavior to pull off the role. She does an excellent job in the Charleston-dance duet number "Young and Healthy" and "Go Into Your Dance" group number ( she and real life husband Dan get to dance together in this song) where she dances better than the other three girls. Atia is hilarious in the rehearsal scenes with Julian Marsh where she learns how to act after he kisses her several times but her best number is "Lullaby of Broadway" when she and Kevin do a cakewalk with the cast and "42nd Street" with the chorus. Atia always does an excellent job whether she is playing a dramatic part like the blind Suzy Hendrix in "Wait Until Dark" or in comic parts in the musicals I have reviewed her in.This show is just one more feather in this young actress' cap. Brava!

One of the best voices and dancers in this show is Lennie Machado who plays Billy Lawlor. He uses his strong tenor voice which soars off the charts in "Dames" and "Lullaby" ( he does flips and many acrobatic moves during the show) and sings with the girls in "I Know Now". Lennie is a superb dancer who taps up a storm in "We're in the Money" and is especially impressive in the "Dames" number where he twirls canes in the air and in the"42nd Street" finale where he is dressed up as a sailor and is shot while dancing with Peggy. Lenny has matured into an excellent leading man from playing juvenile leads. ( I was in "Man of La Mancha" at the Newport Playhouse with Lenny back in 1990 and saw him last in "Into the Woods" as Jack in the Beanstalk for Community Players in 1996. He will be choreographing "A Chorus Line" there this fall.) Two scene stealing performers are Louise Tetreault and Chris DiOrio as Maggie and Bert. Louise shows off her powerful lower register to her topnotch soprano voice as well as her dancing skills in "Go Into Your Dance", "Getting to Be a Habit with Me" and sings "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" while in a sleeper berth on a train and a chorus of "Lullaby". The chorus girls squeal in fright when Bert opens the wrong berth to climb in with Anytime Annie. Chris shows off his comic side throughout the show and his tenor voice in "Getting Out of Town" and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" in his pajamas. Dan Gravely as the choreographer of Pretty Lady leads the cast in the opening audition song with a long and show stopping tap dance. Dan and Atia have a beautiful 5 year old son, AJ. Chris sings the latter song dressed as bride and groom with Michaela Murphy who I directed in "The Emperor's Nightingale" in 1992 and acted with in "Oklahoma" in 1998, plays Anytime Annie who is a dynamite dancer and singer who gets to lead the chorus in "We're in the Money" and "There's a Sunny Side to Every Situation". Her funniest moment comes when she tells Julian that Peggy is at the train station after he fired her, when he thanks her and walks by, stares at his butt saying anytime while looking longingly at it! She and Megan Donnelly as Phyllis, Lauren Duffy as Ethel, Hannah Forte as Diane, Mandie Joy Pouliot as Gladys and Christine Lariviere as Lorraine, the Park Avenue dame, get to tap dance wonderfully and have some scene stealing scenes as the bubble headed chorines while the three chorus boys are Tom Lavallee, David Weeks and Venugopalan Anantharamakumar ( who I told needs to shorten his name.) Dorothy's two suitors are wonderfully played by Ty Waterman as Abner Dillon, her rich sugar daddy who gets to sing part of "Lullaby" and Glenn Fournier as Richard Denning, her true love and vaudeville partner who gets to show off his voice in "Getting Out of Town". ( I reviewed Glenn in "Crazy for You" where he played Bela and Kevin played Bobby) Both men are topnotch, pulling their roles off with ease. Kudos to all the hard working and superb cast as well as to everyone who worked on this show. So for a trip back to the 1930's where your spirits will be lifted and you'll have a rollicking good time, be sure to catch "42nd Street" at Norton Singers. You will be glad you did.

"42nd Street" (5 - 14 June)
THE NORTON SINGERS
Wheaton College, 26 East Main Road, NORTON MA
1(508)285-4049

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