It’s as ‘corny as Kansas in August’, but this production of 42nd Street is to quote a line from the show ‘sheer unadulterated brilliance’. Willets and Web may sound like a firm of family solicitors, but are two of the most impressive performers in musical theatre in the UK. Dave Willets, in particular, is the consummate professional and on the night of the US elections was very much the commander-in-chief.
For any budding actor here was a lesson in making your presence felt every time you are on stage. It’s a pity that the part of Julian Marsh makes the audience wait to the second half before he has a solo number but it was worth waiting for.
’Lullaby of Broadway’ was delivered with panache and with the nuance drawn from every phrase. In my mind that was one of the great moments of my time watching shows at the Playhouse only matched by Michael Crawford in Concert singing songs from ‘Phantom’.
42nd Street is the story of the rehearsing of the fictional musical ‘Pretty Lady’ and the machinations behind getting backing for a show in the 1930s.
The show’s leading lady is the fading star Dorothy Brock played by Marti Webb. While more used to be the far-from-fading star, Marti has a number of great numbers in the first half before being crocked by naive newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Jessica Punch). ‘About a quarter to nine’ showed both of them at their best. It’s unfortunate in a way that Jessica has to share the glory with two such doyens of the theatre as she has an abundance of talent covering singing, dancing and comic acting.
She is backed by a wonderful ensemble consisting of the ‘kids’ but also some cameo parts of older actors. If you recall the great Busby Berkley movies then you would think it would be hard to replicate ‘live’ on stage, some of the intricate dance moves. But director Mark Bramble and choreographer Graeme Henderson have come up with the goods supported by quality stage design and lighting.
Anyone who has put on taps or wish that they could dance could only watch in wonder. The duelling taps and the routine on the rostra were highlights of a show that was delivered with sharpness and fluency.
The orchestra, good throughout, enhanced the interval by joining in a rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ to make someone’s big day even more special.
Runs to Saturday 10th @ 7.30pm with matinees 2.30pm Wed. & Sat.