BWW Review: The MUNY'S Spectacular 42ND STREET

BWW Review: The MUNY'S Spectacular 42ND STREET

If you missed The MUNY's production of 42nd STREET, you missed a show that was an absolutely perfect fit for the wide open spaces its stage presents. The original Warner Bros. 1933 pre-production code film was a blend of behind the scenes melodrama and onstage eye-candy. It gave depression era audiences a chance to escape from their worries with Lloyd Bacon's direction of the story and Busby Berkley's show-stopping musical direction. And, that's the caliber of entertainment you'll find on stage at The MUNY. It's an extravaganza that verges on pure spectacle, with that enormous canvas worked to perfection; a snappy mix of what made the movie and the Broadway version so successful.

The things that we now consider cliched or campy weren't so when the original version was made, but you have to realize they were turned into iconic staples of many, many musicals that followed, in part, or nearly entirely. You have the producer, beholden to a backer's desire to see his latest fling play the lead in an upcoming production that's crucial to the success of everyone involved. You have a young and incredibly talented girl who's destined for the street, but who gets her big break when the backer's romance breaks an ankle and is unable to do the show. It's a classic tale told extremely well, and even though it might sound corny, it works like a charm. It also features the wonderful music and lyrics of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, respectively, whose tunes will be instantly familiar to any fan of the Great American Songbook, or the Looney Tunes cartoon series.

Jonalyn Saxer is simply terrific as Peggy Sawyer, the little girl from Allentown with dreams of Broadway success. She combines just the right mix of small town appeal with big city talent, showcasing superior tap skills and a big voice to carry numbers like the eponymous title song with ease. Jay Armstrong Johnson is also quite good as the vain, skirt-chasing tenor, Billy Lawlor. Johnson's voice is exceptionally clear and sparkles during numbers like "Young and Healthy" and "Dames".

Emily Skinner projects the perfectly haughty and demanding air of a aging, self-consumed performer as Dorothy Brock, the leading lady who takes a tumble. A beautifully arranged version of "I Only Have Eyes for You" completely captivates under her guidance. But, the emotional anchor of this show is Shuler Hensley and he commands the stage with his forceful personality as struggling producer Julian Marsh. A highlight of the evening is his rendition of "Lullaby of Broadway", as he pleads with Peggy to come back and take the lead after he inadvertently fires her.

A bevy of talented support is led by: Jason Kravitz and Ann Harada, pulling musical and comical hi-jinks as Bert and Maggie, the script writers of Pretty Lady, the show within the show; Fred Zimmerman as Abner Dillon, the demanding backer of the show, who's wooing Miss Brock; Joey Sorge as Pat Denning, who's also enticed with Miss Brock; Megan Sikora as Annie, a high-spirited member of the chorus; and Bryan Thomas Hunt as the show's beleaguered choreographer.

Director/Choreographer Denis Jones gives this production the glitz and glamour it deserves, and there are some memorable moments found throughout. Then there's also the brilliant musical direction of Ben Whiteley which sounds gorgeous in the moonlight. Michael Schweikardt contributes an inspired scenic design, and, Andrea Lauer's costumes recreate the era in style. Rob Denton's lighting is also sharp and focused.

42nd STREET ran through June 30, 2016.

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From This Author Chris Gibson

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