Remember March 2016? It was a busy month: Donald Trump had begun to win ground in the run-up to America’s presidential elections and, on an equally ambitious scale, BROS was about to perform 42nd Street at the Richmond Theatre.
Anyone who was in, helped out with or saw our own all-singing, all-dancing production knows what a fantastic show it was – if you need reminding, there are plenty of pictures over on our show page – and just a few months after our run, rumours began to surface of a new London revival. Fast forward to last Wednesday and 42 of BROS’s finest (including some of our own original cast) were lined up and ready to find see what lay in store.
Pace and grace
There’s sometimes a danger that, having performed shows on an amateur basis, the effect of seeing a professional production can be diminished, but that’s definitely not the case here. From the first time the curtain rises to reveal row upon row of tap-dancing feet, to Julian Marsh’s iconic ending, this production was bursting with energy.
This is theatre with true pace. Where other shows stick to the speed limits, 42nd Street is a runaway freight train. To carry such speed you need star power, and, if former Emmerdale heart-throb Tom Lister as Julian Marsh wasn’t enough, the London revival also has Sheena Easton bringing in the big guns as fading starlet Dorothy Brock. Both give incredible performances, with Lister playing dictatorial director Marsh with a softer, fairer edge, and Easton’s Brock initially dripping with fake charm, but warming as she discovers the talent of young Peggy Sawyer.
And speaking of Sawyer, Clare Halse’s performance firmly deserves all of the review column inches it’s racked up since the show’s opening. From her first entrance, scrambling into the backstage rehearsal before bumping into Julian Marsh himself, she’s absolutely believable as the wide-eyed Sawyer, the girl who arrived in New York City with nothing but some tap shoes and a suitcase full of dreams. Halse is given plenty of opportunity to showcase those tap skills, too, among 42nd Street’s many iconic songs, but it was her ability to take on those numbers while also singing flawlessly which impressed me.
Speaking of dancing, our own troupe of dancers will know too well just how much of a toll this show can take. And yet, as we moved from Dames, with its glitter and sequins, through We’re In The Money (complete with larger-than-life coinage) and into the iconic 42nd Street, there wasn’t a tired smile or misplaced step to be seen. Indeed, the ensemble are the real stars of this show – lending pace and laughter to make the life of a chorus girl seem all the more believable and precarious.
Perhaps more than any other musical, 42nd Street can provide pure escapism for its audiences. And, if the continuing box office success for An American in Paris has shown us anything, it’s that audiences want to escape for a few hours in the glitzy nostalgia of yesteryear. So, if you’re looking for a musical which offers toe-tapping songs, a historic story which also resonates in the modern age and some of the best choreography you’ll find in the West End, I can’t recommend 42nd Street highly enough.
42nd Street is currently playing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. You can buy tickets by clicking here.
Review by Darren Moss