“42nd Street” is a musical monster. With 17 back-to-back musical numbers, the show is a challenge for even the most seasoned repertory companies. To take on this quintessential Broadway show is laudable, and I applaud the Community Players for bravely and boldly stepping into the glittering maelstrom that is “42nd Street.”
In case you’ve somehow managed to never see a production of this Warren and Dubin classic, the storyline is a simple Broadway fairy tale.
Peggy Sawyer, a bright-eyed hoofer with no experience, arrives in New York from Allentown, Pa. A chance run-in with the director gets her cast in her first Broadway show, and within no time she’s rehearsing. An onstage accident with the veteran leading lady lands Peggy out on the street and the lead in the hospital. But just as Peggy is about to catch the train home to Allentown, the director begs her to come back and take the lead role. It’s no spoiler to tell you she learns the role in 36 hours and opens to rave reviews. The play is campy and fun, and the show-within-a-show framework allows for tantalizing production numbers. “42nd Street” has those unforgettable tunes like “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Shuffle off to Buffalo” that have become standards on and off the stage.
With choreography by Tim Reid, the ensemble looks great as they show off their tap skills. Although the footwork isn’t too fancy, it’s still impressive to see so many people moving in unison. Some of the dance breaks have been truncated, but the “wow” factor is still there.
Beautiful costumes by Pamela Jackson transport the audience back to the 1930s, with finger waves, high waists and just the right amount of glitz.
The cast is led by great local talent, such as Shelia Senko as Peggy Sawyer, naïve hoofer with dreams of bright lights and Broadway success. Senko is a strong dancer and has a clear voice that gives Peggy the qualities she needs to be a credible standout among her peers in the musical within the musical.
Eve Marie Webster plays the jaded Dorothy Brock, the aging starlet that gets cast in the leading role of “Pretty Lady, Broadway’s newest musical.” Webster plays the condescending Brock with humor, and though Webster was often a little lacking in the vocals, her comedy antics more than made up for that.
Two other standouts were Anytime Annie as played by Sarah DeMoranville, and Maggie Jones by Kara Marziali. Both women have strong voices perfectly suited for their roles and their musical numbers.
The show was fun, and I encourage those who have never seen “42nd Street” to go and “meet those dancing feet.” “42nd Street” is a definitive piece of musical comedy history and this production has all of the heart and gumption needed to make it enjoyable.
“42nd Street” runs now through April 29 at the Jenks Auditorium on Division Street in Pawtucket. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and can be reserved by calling 726-6860 or visiting www.thecommunityplayers.org.