BWW Review: Toe-Tapping 42ND STREET Tour Brings Sunny Song and Dance to Providence
When it comes to classic song-and-dance theater, it doesn't get much more "Broadway" than 42nd Street. The show is breezy and buoyant, a carefree love letter to the Great White Way and to the art of the stage musical.
The story opens with a big announcement: "Julian Marsh is doing a show!" This news draws scores of seasoned hoofers to audition for the famed New York director. As they wrangle for positions in Pretty Lady, wide-eyed Peggy Sawyer stumbles into the rehearsal hall fresh off the train from Allentown, PA. Though she misses the audition, her guileless manner and natural talent soon earn her the goodwill of the company and, with no former theatrical experience to her credit, she lands a coveted spot in the Pretty Lady chorus line.
Insofar as plot goes, 42nd Street is all sweetness. The plucky, can-do attitude of the "kids" in the company outshines the darkest days of the show's Depression-era setting. Peggy effortlessly wins the admiration and praise of everyone she encounters - even Pretty Lady's haughty prima donna can't help but root for her - and each chorus member supports her meteoric rise to stardom with unfeigned enthusiasm. From the moment the curtain rises, the audience is entirely assured all will turn out right in the end. There isn't a scrap of doubt that a "happily ever after" is on the horizon for Marsh's Pretty Lady crew, even when an on-stage disaster threatens to close the show before it reaches New York.
42nd Street may be rather slim on narrative tension, but the sprightly storyline really serves as a foundation for the signature, crowd-pleasing tap dance numbers that have made the stage show a hit with audiences for nearly four decades. The touring production (under the direction of Mark Bramble) now playing at the Providence Performing Arts Center does that dancing justice, from the ensemble's high-energy show opener "Audition" to the show-stopping "42nd Street" finale.
Clara Cox captures Peggy Sawyer's innocence and charm even as she puts down blazing-fast tap routines in "Go Into Your Dance," "Montage," and the finale's title number. Kara Gibson Slocum easily steals the spotlight as feisty diva Dorothy Brock, and she delivers an elegant, touching rendition of "I Only Have Eyes for You." Matthew J. Taylor brings wonderful depth of character to Julian Marsh, closing the show with a powerful reprise of "42nd Street." Harry Warren and Al Dubin's familiar tunes - "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," "We're in the Money," and "Lullaby of Broadway" - keep everyone's toes tapping, whether those toes are on stage or in the audience.
Kacie Hultgren's scenic design for this tour cleverly showcases the big dance numbers, often using simple stagecraft - a play on light and shadow, a rotating mirrored panel - to strong effect. Roger Kirk's costumes glitter with all the spangles and sequins 42nd Street's theatricality warrants. The jewel-toned gowns used in "Dames" are especially memorable, as are the dazzling white-and-gold numbers worn in the high-stepping finale.
42nd Street plays the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, March 26, 2017. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Individual ticket prices start at $34 and group orders (15 or more) may be placed by calling (401) 574-3162.
Pictured: Matthew J. Taylor and Clara Cox
Photo Courtesy 42nd Street National Tour