42nd Street at Drury Lane
42nd Street is the latest all singing, all dancing musical to hit the West End. The show opens in 1933 with auditions for a new show ‘Pretty Lady.’ Peggy Sawyer arrives, nearly missing auditions whilst past her peak prima donna Dorothy Beck is awarded the lead part in order to get financial backing from her wealthy partner. Peggy soon gets the chance to show off her dance skills to the shows director, Julian and he agrees that she can have a role in the chorus. In the meantime Dorothy’s affair with her ex, Pat Denning threatens to loose the financial backing for the show, so Julian makes sure he is scared out of town. On opening night of the out of town tryouts Peggy gets bumped into Dorothy causing her to fall and break her ankle. Peggy initially gets fired on the spot however the cast and the production team realise that she is the only one that can play Dorothy’s role. I won’t ruin the ending but suffice to say that the storyline is a classic old school fairytale with a heart-warming end.
The undoubtable star of the show is the dancing. The ensemble is 40 strong and this has an incredible impact. The sheer number of dancers on stage is a marvel in itself and when they begin to dance you can’t help but be awed. At points during a number there were random claps of appreciation for their dance talent. Not only were they all superb individual dancers but as a group they moved beautifully in time together. The choreography by Randy Skinner is in keeping with the time of the show yet still manages to feel fresh and original. Each dance number has a completely different take on it although my favourite number would have to be a toss up between the reflected ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’ and the mass of dancers flooding down the stairs in the title number itself.
The principal cast could often be overlooked by the number of people surrounding them on stage however luckily they were up to the challenge. Clare Halse who plays Peggy Sawyer has to convince as one of the best dancers in the troop. Not only did she do that but she had the perfect balance of spark and tenacity, combined with naïve, old fashioned innocence. Alongside her Stuart Neal playing Billy Lawlor was a convincing tenor lead for ‘Pretty Lady,’ and his charm and cheeky chap persona. Sheena Easton was the name casting for this show and she can certainty sing, although I wasn’t convinced by her diva, prior leading lady status.
Another jaw dropping feature of the show is the costumes. Each of them are beautifully designed and the impact is enhanced with the sheer volume of people wearing them. They range from pastel coloured travelling coats and matching gloves to colourful tap shoes for the audition to a variety of sequinned bodies for some of the numbers within ‘Pretty Lady.’
This show looks likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and just like Pretty Lady within 42nd Street it is bound to be a smash hit. Whilst not overly complex this is just the type of show that is needed at the moment. A show of pure escapism that can transport you into their beautifully theatrical world.
For more information on the show why not check out the musicals website.