BWW Review: 42ND STREET: Thunderous Opening For The Umbrella Stage Company
Music by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin, Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble, Based on the Novel by Bradford Ropes, Original Direction and Dances by Gower Champion, Originally Produced on Broadway by David Merrick; Directed by Brian Boruta, Music Direction by James Murphy, Musical Restaging and New Choreography by Lara Finn Banister; Scenic Design, Benjamin D. Rush; Lighting Design, SeifAllah Sallotto-Cristobal; Sound Design, Elizabeth Havenor; Costume Design, Brian Simons; Properties Design, Sarajane Morse Mullins; Stage Manager, Michael T. Lacey
CAST: Gillian Mariner Gordon, Todd Yard, Mickey T. White, Aimee Doherty, Daniel Forrest Sullivan, Barbara Pierre, Ryan Malyar, Ashley Nicole Martin, Temma Beaudreau, Rachel Tata, Chris DiOrio, Gordon Ellis, John Breen, Cara Guappone, Will Fafard, Alden Gagnon, Jackson Jirard, Thom Hardy, Erica Lundin, Nick Osborne, Hannah Shihdanian
Performances through October 20 at The Umbrella Stage Company, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA; Box Office 978-371-0820 or www.TheUmbrellaStage.org
The red velvet curtain rises on about a dozen pairs of feet tapping up a storm, but there are a few hundred more dancing their way out of the Umbrella Community Arts Center after they pay a visit to 42nd Street, the blockbuster grand opening production of the Umbrella Stage Company, Greater Boston's newest professional theater in Concord. The 344-seat, state-of-the-art main stage is airy and comfortable, with a generous rake to provide unobstructed viewing from every row. Kicking off the season with the quintessential backstage musical is a stroke of genius that celebrates the performing arts and generates excitement for the Umbrella.
Director Brian Boruta makes the leap from community to professional theater with his sea legs under him and a steady hand on the tiller. Capably supported by music director James Murphy and choreographer Lara Finn Banister, the trio hits all the right notes for the familiar and not-so-familiar musical numbers. For me, the dancing is the make or break component of every production of 42nd Street, and Banister faithfully restages Gower Champion's original dances, while supplementing some new choreography. The stage is set with the classic "Audition" opening number, as the chorus boys and girls try out for a new show by Julian Marsh (Todd Yard), a venerable Broadway producer. Marsh's right hand man Andy Lee (Daniel Forrest Sullivan) puts them through their rapid paces, and the show is off and running.
Boruta's casting choices are a good fit up and down the line, with Yard taking command as a gruff, but soft-hearted director; Aimee Doherty, giving a nuanced, wide-ranging performance and channeling her inner diva as Dorothy Brock, the star whose wealthy sugar daddy is bankrolling Marsh's show; Mickey T. White (Billy Lawlor), the so-called juvenile whose mellifluous tenor is matched by terrific tapping; and Gillian Mariner Gordon capturing the wide-eyed wonder and spunk of Peggy Sawyer. Barbara Pierre (Maggie Jones) and Ryan Malyar (Bert Barry) play the couple who wrote Pretty Lady, and they jump in with both feet to provide humor and humanity, while showing off some considerable vocal chops, too. As Dorothy's dueling suitors, Chris DiOrio (Abner Dillon) is totally believable as the rich guy used to getting what he wants, and Gordon Ellis (Pat Denning) radiates good guy qualities, even while being buffeted by Dorothy's whims and a couple of thugs who trail him.
Featured chorus girls Anytime Annie (Ashley Nicole Martin), Lorraine (Temma Beaudreau), and Phyllis (Rachel Tata) all share a fun and supportive relationship with Peggy. They're sassy and brassy, and they show off their tap talents in "Go Into Your Dance" and "We're in the Money." Sharing the line with them are Cara Guappone, Erica Lundin, and Hannah Shihdanian. The chorus boys are John Green, Alden Gagnon, Jackson Jirard, Thom Hardy, Will Fafard, and Nick Osborne. The strength of the ensemble is borne out by their triple-threat ability to sing, dance, and act, not to mention perform as quick-change artists, frequently changing in and out of Brian Simons' fabulous costumes in short order.
While Simons' designs serve up lots of eye candy, Benjamin D. Rush's scenic design is impressive, as well. Painted backdrops and theatrical decorations create the worlds of the rehearsal hall, the performance, the automat, and the train station. SeifAllah Sallotto-Cristobal's lighting design enhances each of those settings, and adds some pizazz with the shadow dance effects and illuminated marquees when the company performs "Forty-Second Street." Kudos to sound designer Elizabeth Havenor for getting the right mix between the singers and Murphy's 12-piece orchestra. Designer Sarajane Morse Mullins adds an appropriate collection of period props.
42nd Street has about a dozen and a half musical numbers, at least eight scene locations (that I counted), and too many costume changes to track. If I had one quibble on opening night, it was that some of these changes took too long to effect, but I expect the pace will pick up as the show gets further into its run. It is a large cast and a production with many moving parts, the majority of which are well-oiled. I've seen numerous iterations over the years, including at the Ogunquit Playhouse early in the past summer, and the Umbrella Stage trips the light fantastic with the best of them.