42nd Street "Immaculately danced and masterfully executed"

42nd Street is everything it promises to be; jaw-dropping, relentless routines, a 43 strong cast tapping immaculate Broadway beats down an illuminated staircase, and a bedazzled audience staring up, open-mouthed below.  American Glamour has arrived at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

42nd Street "Immaculately danced and masterfully executed"

The show follows the story of Peggy Sawyer (played by a breath-taking Clare Halse), a chorus line showgirl looking for her big break, which she finds in the fictional Broadway show  Pretty Lady.  She arrives a naïve young actress, caught in the spotlight of fiery director Julian Marsh (Tom Lister) and diva star of the show Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton). In a twist of fate, and Dorothy’s ankle, Peggy finds herself propelled into whirlwind rehearsals and onto centre stage.  Cue laughs, tears, and high-speed tapping.

The entire cast work together with such seamlessness that all performances work in harmony, with strong leads, hilarious cameos and marvellous support from the chorus line (who in many ways are in fact the lead of the show).  A word also for the brilliance of understudies and swings; they are the lifeblood of a musical and kept the production pumping seamlessly for this performance. CJ Johnson gave a gorgeous performance as Dorothy Brock, her song I Only Have Eyes For You, giving us a much needed emotional connection.

The book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble (Bramble also directs this production) reworks the classic 1933 Warner Brothers movie and originating novel by Bradford Ropes, and injects glitz and glamour into the heart of the show.  Where there were only four songs in the movie, the show dove into the back catalogue of Harry Warren’s music and Al Dubin’s lyrics that were written for other films at the time, to give us the delights of Go Into Your Dance and Lullaby of Broadway, and in this way, 42nd Street is a sister to the jukebox musicals that are becoming ever popular in the West End.

Whilst the performance was a wonder of showbiz and a theatrical extravaganza that will be loved by the whole family, the underlying story and theme of the play feels disjointed with today’s wider social discourse.  There is a problem with the achingly sexist lyrics and plotline that pretends to centre around the one-in-a-million talents of Peggy Sawyer, but instead praises her tyrannical director, Julian Marsh for being the true artist “pulling the strings”.  One wonders if, in the way the original book was manipulated to satisfy a post-war era, a modern revival could rework the piece for today’s audience, to provide deeper sentiment and poignancy, as we’ve seen in recent revivals such as An American in Paris.

Immaculately danced and masterfully executed, 42nd Street is a West End delight that displays the magnificent power of a stage full of a glorious chorus giving it their all. With the new cast line up announced, you can catch Lulu in the role of Dorothy Brock and Ashley Day taking over the role of Billy Lawlor, whilst Tom Lister and Clare Halse remain in the roles of Julian March and Peggy Sawyer respectively, from 19th March for 16 weeks.

Try to catch Sheena Easton before she leaves the stage, or catch Lulu as she joins the 42nd Street cast, book your tickets here!

Laura Franek

Laura is an actor and writer based in South London

Related news

New VR theatre experience "Petrichor" coming this December!

Posted on | By Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels |

A brand-new virtual reality theatre experience presented by Theatre Royal Stratford East is set to arrive this holida... Read more

The Stage Debut Awards winners announced – including Sam Tutty, Shan Ako and Daniel Monks

Posted on | By Jade Ali |

The winners of The Stage Debut Awards were announced last night (27 September) in a virtual ceremony filmed at the We... Read more

Q&A with Hairspray star Lizzie Bea

Posted on | By Jade Ali |

You can’t stop the beat! Hairspray will be returning to the famous London Coliseum, from the original awar... Read more

Follow us for instant updates and special offers

Sign up to our mailing list and be the first to hear about new West End shows and exclusive ticket discounts. We value your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time. But we hope you won’t!