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BWW Review: 42ND STREET National Tour at Durham Performing Arts Center

Based on Bradford Ropes' 1932 novel as well as Busby Berkeley's 1933 film musical adaptation of the same name, 42nd Street tells the story of famed dictatorial Great White Way director Julian Marsh to mount a successful stage production of a musical extravaganza at the height of the Great Depression. When the star breaks her ankle, a young, small town girl named Peggy Sawyer takes over and becomes a star herself.

After having its out-of-town tryout at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the original Broadway production directed & choreographed by the legendary Gower Champion opened ten hours after his unfortunate death on August 25th, 1980. It would go on to win two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography for Champion as well as enjoying a long run of 3,486 performances after closing on January 8th, 1989. It was revived in 2001 in a season that was mostly dominated by The Producers. Though that production still walked away with two Tony Awards (including Best Revival of a Musical) and ran for 1,524 performances after closing on January 2nd, 2005.

The minute the curtain goes up to reveal a colorful cast of characters dancing to the brilliant choreography courtesy of Randy Skinner (who should be congratulated on receiving his most recent Tony nomination earlier this week for the Broadway production of Dames at Sea), you know you're going to be in for one hell of a night!

Under the direction of Mark Bramble (who also co-wrote the book with Bye Bye Birdie and Hello, Dolly! Scribe Michael Stewart), the young cast of nonunion actors bring a whole lot of energy on stage. Standouts include Matthew J. Taylor as the notorious director Julian Marsh, who also brings a powerhouse vocal performance at the end of the show; Kaitlin Lawrence as the edgy Prima Donna Dorothy Bock; Caitlin Ehlinger as nervous, yet enthusiastic Peggy Sawyer who starts the show a youngster, but ends it a star; Blake Stadnik as the classy leading tenor Billy Lawlor.

Packaged well with a catchy score by Harry Warren & Al Dubin, this is what I like to call a perfect backstage musical! Even though it premiered in 1980, it still feels like it could've come directly out of the 1930's. Extra credit must be given to lighting designer Ken Billington, scenic designer Beowulf Boritt (who also received a Tony nomination earlier this week for his work on Therese Raquin), and costume designer Roger Kirk for creating some very colorful images. This national touring production is currently playing at Durham Performing Arts Center through May 8th.

For more information regarding the tour, please visit:

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From This Author Jeffrey Kare