BWW Reviews: 42nd STREET, New Wimbledon Theatre, September 11 2012


Hopeful hoofer Peggy is up from Hicksville and too, too scared even to knock at the stage door for fear of big, bad New York theatre director Julian Marsh. But soon she's in the chorus line and, after a scrape or two with the diva-ish leading lady Dorothy Brock, she's thrust into the limelight as the star of the show! Can full-of-moxie Peggy learn the lines, sing the songs and save the show? Well, what do you think?

42nd Street (at New Wimbledon Theatre until 15 September and on tour) doesn't try to hard with the plot, nor with the characterisations, but, boy, does it try with everything else! As you would expect from a musical based on a Busby Berkeley movie, there's a dizzying array of costumes that would give pause to a synchronised swimming team and dance moves they'd struggle to match. There's tap - lots of tap - and some good songs like "Keep Young and Beautiful", and some great songs like "Lullaby of Broadway" and, of course, "42nd Street" itself.

The chorus sing, dance and smile non-stop and have a great champion in Jessica Punch as Peggy, who must go through a pair of shoes in every performance. Dave Willetts and Marti Webb have been around for years, and their experience shows in making the most of a couple of cookie cutter parts - Ms Webb's "I only have eyes for you" is the vocal highlight. There's live (praise be, live and not piped) music from an excellent band too. Everyone looks great, sings well and projects and projects and projects.

So what's not to like? Well, musical theatre isn't really about plot, but it would have been nice to have had some dramatic tension and not to have all the funny lines in the first 30 minutes. But I'm quibbling about what 42nd Street isn't. Instead, we should celebrate what it is - an unabashed old-fashioned musical showing how a big heart can trump adversity. And, in the comedown after an Olympic and Paralympic summer, that's not a bad message to hear again.  

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