BWW Reviews: 42ND STREET Dazzles at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

BWW Reviews: 42ND STREET Dazzles at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina has assembled a superb cast of triple-threat performers for the Depression-era musical 42ND STREET. Directed by Casey Colgan, the story follows aspiring dancer/singer Peggy Sawyer, a small town girl who comes to New York with big dreams of making it on Broadway. Featuring a repertoire of familiar tunes including "We're In the Money" and "Lullaby of Broadway," along with sensational tap dancing, 42ND STREET is a sparkling concoction just right for the holiday season.

Gabrielle Ruiz brings a winning blend of naivete and sass to the lead role of Peggy Sawyer. Her terrific physicality and spot-on comedic instincts elevate what could be a generic part into a true star vehicle. Ruiz's strong singing voice and outstanding dance skills make her one to watch in the coming years.

Ruiz's innocent young heroine is counterpointed by Susan Powell as Dorothy Brock, an aging diva who sees Peggy as a potential rival, both professionally and romantically. Powell crafts a fully-dimensional performance that navigates moments of high silliness (reminiscent of the wonderfully dippy Vicki Lawrence) balanced by heartfelt pathos. We empathize with Dorothy's insecurities, even while we laugh at her foibles.

The male stars are equally strong. As company tenor and resident Lothario, Billy Lawlor, Nic Thompson gives a virtuoso performance. He is easily the strongest vocalist in the show, as well as one of the most proficient dancers in a company chock full of talent. Richard Riaz Yoder plays choreographer Andy Lee and sets the bar for high-spirited, snazzy footwork.

In supporting roles, Bill Bateman and Gail Cook Howell shine as songwriting partners Bert Barry and Maggie Jones. Portraying Anytime Annie and producer Julian Marsh, Kelly Marteney and Jeffrey Watkins are also great fun to watch.

As with any production of 42nd STREET, the spotlight is on the dancing. And boy, can they dance! Randy Skinner's brilliant choreography for the Broadway revival is adapted and restaged by Kelli Barclay.

An otherwise effective scenic design by Terry Cermak is marred by some significant sightline issues. While these visual challenges are largely attributable to the theatre's architecture, patrons in some sections of the balcony will have difficulty seeing much of the action on stage right. Since several important scenes are played in that area, which serves as Dorothy's dressing room, some audience members resolved this issue by standing.

It is rare to see audience members dancing and singing tunes from the show in the parking lot after a performance. Experience it for yourself at this outstanding production of 42nd STREET.

42ND STREET runs through December 29 at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head.

Photo credit: Anthony Paderewski. (Gabrielle Ruiz and Richard Riaz Yoder)

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Debra Charlton Debra Charlton is the author of Holistic Shakespeare: An Experiential Learning Approach (Intellect Books 2012). Her reviews and articles on Shakespeare training and performance have appeared in numerous publications. Most recently, her chapter on Sarah Bernhardt was published in Women in the Arts in the Belle Epoque (MacFarland 2012).

Debra Charlton received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in Shakespearean theatre.  She joined the faculty of Texas State University in 1999 where she served as Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre until 2013. At Texas State, she established and supervised the production dramaturgy program at Texas State, and founded a summer Shakespeare intensive in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.

Dr. Charlton began her career as a professional actor at Houston’s Alley Theatre.  She has since directed many productions, including King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blood Wedding, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Winter’s Tale.   She has also worked as a production dramaturg on many plays, including Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, Oklahoma!, A Little Night Music, Arcadia, The Art of Dining, and The Learned Ladies.


 
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