Theater Review: 42nd Street’ a rollicking good timeBy Jim Lowe
You haven’t really experienced “42nd Street” until you’ve seen it in a 300-seat theater like Weston Playhouse.
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company opened a production of this classic Broadway musical Friday that was not only effervescent and expertly performed, it placed the singing and dancing — tap in particular — practically in the laps of the audience in this intimate theater.
Although “42nd Street” premiered on Broadway in 1980, it was an adaptation of a 1933 film musical with music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. The Broadway production won the Tony Award for best musical and became a long running hit with a Broadway revival in 2001.
The plot, hardly Shakespeare, centers on a young Broadway chorister wannabe, Peggy Sawyer, just off the train from Allentown, Pa. After missing a chance to audition for the new Julian Marsh musical, she gets in almost by accident. When the show’s aging star, Dorothy Brock, breaks her foot, it may be Peggy’s chance of a lifetime.
But “42nd Street” isn’t about plot and deep characterizations, it’s about singing and dancing and feeling good about the characters. And this is where the Weston Playhouse production, directed by Tim Fort, one of the theater’s three producing artistic directors, excels.
The cast was excellent, but it was the dancing that proved the biggest attraction. Imaginatively choreographed by Michael Raine, the sound and look of virtuoso tap dancing by a stage full of excellent hoofers is an experience one isn’t likely to experience anyplace these days — and the look and sound was electric.
Still, the most emotionally powerful dance wasn’t really tap, but modern, and featured an exquisite pas de deux with Julie Kavanaugh’s Peggy Sawyer and Jeffrew Pew’s Billy Lawlor. It was breathtaking.
The cast proved to be good singers, from the stars to the smallest chorus parts. Kavanaugh, though a little obvious at times, was not only a virtuoso tapper but a brilliant and expressive singer. David Bonanno, a Weston regular, achieved real stature and presence as Julian Marsh, while Susan Haefner, another Weston regular, was a particularly delicious witch — who sang gorgeously — as the star Dorothy Brock.
Still, the most amazing singer was Pew, who played Billy. You’d have to go a long way to hear a tenor voice as beautiful and lyrical. As for real characters, Dorothy Stanley gets the prize for her Maggie, one of the new show’s creators and a softie for Peggy.
The staging was as elaborate as anything Weston has seen, and that’s saying something. Howard Jones’ elaborate set, colorfully expressive costumes by Karen Ann Ledger and dramatic lighting all contribute to the hoopla. Even the work of the wig and makeup designer, Erin Kennedy Lunsford, made an obvious visual contribution.
There were some opening night glitches, including line gaffes, property mishaps, etc., but they were completely overshadowed by the show’s contagious excitement.
Weston Playhouse’s “42nd Street” is a rollicking good time — practically in your lap.
Weston Playhouse Theatre Company presents “42nd Street,” the Harry Warren-Michael Stewart Broadway musical, Aug. 1-24, at the Weston Playhouse, 12 Park St. in Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays, plus 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets are $61-$47; call 824-5288, or go online to westonplayhouse.org.MORE IN Central Vermont
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