30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #13 - 42nd STREET
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on what many consider the final musical in the Golden Age tradition, 42nd STREET!
We're In The Money
Boasting more hit tunes than a vintage radio song parade and featuring the fiercest tapping this side of Ann Miller, the final Gower Champion musical, 42nd STREET, is a classic musical that can claim winning the Tony Award for not only Best Musical in its original 1981 bow, but also Best Revival for its 2001 revival 20 years later. Showcasing a corps of talented tappers and an unforgettable opening sequence, 42nd STREET is brimming with appreciable attributes, first and foremost being the enchanting and earworm-packed score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. To add to it all, 42nd STREET was produced by the iconic showman commonly referred to as "the abominable showman" himself, the one and only David Merrick.
"We're In The Money". "I Only Have Eyes For You". "Shuffle Off To Buffalo". "Forty-Second Street". And, of course, "Lullaby Of Broadway". What a score! What copious opportunities for able performers to stop the show! Furthermore, what a delightful vehicle by which to introduce future generations to some of the most beloved, outright melodically and lyrically brilliant Great Depression song standards! Based on both the original novel by Bradford Ropes and its subsequent hit 1933 film adaptation directed by Lloyd Bacon and choreographed by Busby Berkeley, 42nd STREET tried out at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., before making its way to the Great White Way in 1980. Sounding, smelling, looking and feeling like a hit from the get-go, the opening night of the musical was a huge success - and, in a highly dramatic and undeniably unforgettable turn of events, a fabled one, as well.
Following the riotous standing ovation at the opening night performance on August 25, 1980, producer David Merrick took to the stage to announce that director/choreographer Gower Champion - a Golden Age stalwart celebrated for contributing to such hits as BYE BYE BIRDIE, CARNIVAL!, HELLO, DOLLY!, I DO! I DO!, SUGAR, MACK & MABEL and many more - had passed away earlier that day, prior to the performance. The unfortunate news was met with understandable shock, with gasps and cries heard emanating from the attending audience, not to mention the effect that the announcement had on the cast and crew themselves. Merrick may have pulled off a coup in keeping the information to himself and presenting it in such a theatrical fashion, yet the fact that we are still discussing it to this day acts as irrefutable proof that Merrick knew how to make an impact - and create a buzz-worthy show business memory.
So, now, let's look at some of the reasons why 42nd STREET is one of the 15 longest-running musicals in Broadway history.
First up, take a look at the original Broadway production of 42nd STREET as seen on that year's Tony Awards.
Next, view the Tony Awards performance of the 2001 revival.
Lastly, check out a trailer for the recent UK tour of 42nd STREET.
As a special bonus, view the inventive TV commercial for the original 1980 Broadway production of 42nd STREET.
So, what is it about 42nd STREET that makes it such a lovable, praise-worthy piece of musical entertainment? Is it the caustic, colorful characters and the witty book? The hit parade of songs? The terrific tapping? Whatever the reason for shuffling off to Buffalo, 42nd STREET makes Broadway look not just good, but great - and the real-life story behind the musical is pretty darn fascinating, too.