“42nd Street” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ April 7, 2016


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Tap dancing isn’t dead.  It’s alive and superbly performed in the triumph “42nd Street” revival playing through Sunday at ASU Gammage.  You may have seen this show many times from the original 1933 movie musical to its first Broadway incarnation in the now-famous 1980 David Merrick musical hit in what was fabled director/choreographer Gower Champion’s last Broadway show, or in the 2001 first Broadway revival but this latest reworking of the tuneful but simple story of a chorus girl’s lucky moment that turns her into a major Broadway star is every bit as dynamic and engaging as the earlier productions.  This wonderful production will dazzle you with its shimmering brilliance.

The story focuses on Peggy Sawyer, a young dancing singer.  A lucky break allows her to shine when her awesome singing and extraordinary tap dancing turn her into a Broadway sensation.  She’s been cast in her first Broadway show, “Pretty Lady.”  It’s a new Julian Marsh directed and choreographed showbiz extravaganza headlining aging star, Dorothy Brock.  A stage accident sidelines Dorothy and Peggy saves the show as she falls in love with her director as he pushes her to stardom.

What sets this common plot apart is a series of breathtaking production numbers featuring Harry Warren’s familiar music and Al Dubin’s time-tested lyrics.  The refreshed story is the work of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble.  Bramble also stages this revival which brings an invigorating new Randy Skinner musical staging.  All the film’s songs and tap dancing excitement are left intact.

Simple sets stay out of the way so the energetic dances and glitzy costumes sparkle with color and flash.  The best part of the production is the superb young singer/dancers who deliver the production numbers with harmonic excellence as they tap with flawless perfection.  Matthew J. Taylor is the crusty but infectiously lovable Julian, Kaitlin Lawrence is demonic as Dorothy but she turns into an understanding mentor by the second act, and Caitlin Ehlinger is a heartbreaking Peggy who dances with tireless gusto.  The large cast doesn’t disappoint and Britte Steele shines as pushy writer Maggie Jones and Blake Stadnik is an amazing dancer as “Pretty Lady” star, Billy Lawlor.  In some of the tap numbers, ASU Gammage shakes with the on-stage foot tapping excitement.

There’s nothing profound or unexpected in “42nd Street” but if you want to be entertained with panache, you can’t go wrong with “42nd Street” that continues through Sunday, April 10.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: A