BWW Review: 42ND STREET Performed By The CHARLESTON LIGHT OPERA GUILD
The lights dim and the music begins, treating you to a lovingly crafted medley of the show's songs -played with aplomb by the fantastic orchestra led by Bobby Hodges Jr - when suddenly voices begin to shout;
"Hey, did you hear? Julian Marsh is doing a show!"
"Julian Marsh is doing a show?"
"Julian Marsh is doing a show!"
The words are echoed repeatedly from members of an excited chorus, heard but unseen, as the orchestra intensifies to a crescendo. That when you hear it; the familiar sound of tapping feet. The curtain rises slowly, revealing only feet at first - already frantically dancing - before exposing the complete cast in a showstopping dance number the likes of which are usually reserved for an Act One finale. Right from the start the audience is hooked, cheering at the cast's reveal and anxiously awaiting each dance number and memorable song.
The dancing has always been the core of 42nd Street and is why the show has maintained such a cultural standing despite the film version releasing 86 years ago and the Broadway show first debuting 39 years ago. The dancing in Charleston Light Opera Guild's production does the show justice, showcasing just how truly talented the performers, cast, and crew in West Virginia are and proving that local theater is thriving and a viable alternative to waiting on touring productions to pass through the state.
After such an iconic opening number, you'd worry it couldn't be surpassed - but really, the opening is only a small part of the show - not even allowing the actor's voices to shine yet - and the rest of the show is just as impressive, bouncing along at a frantic pace between creative set pieces and amazing costumes - tasking the actors with multiple quick-changes during production numbers which makes me assume that the backstage must look like something close to the chaos witnessed on Black Friday.
Peggy Sawyer, the naïve but talented Broadway hopeful, makes her appearance shortly after the opening number. Played by Toni Pilato, Sawyer oozes charm which allows you to root for her, even when she refuses to root for herself. Pilato can both sing and act, and her dancing is impressive and showcases why she was chosen to star - she ably steps up to the task of leading the show. Sawyer is intercepted by Billy Lawlor, played with an appropriate mix of cockiness and kindness by Jacob Fleck - also talented on his feet and a great singer - who tells Sawyer that auditions are over, but that she's welcome to perform for him. We then meet Julian Marsh, the dictatorial but famous director, played with an impressive mix of arrogance, anger, and eventually sympathy by John Marshall - a veteran Light Opera Guild contributor, usually involved in the orchestra but this time around choosing to perform - lending a much-appreciated gravitas to the production.
The other characters are all equally impressive, nearly all showcasing their talents as triple threats - dancing, singing and acting their way through iconic songs and set pieces. Natasha Allen plays the part of Anytime Annie, a role made famous by Ginger Rogers in the film, with a great mix of cockiness infused with a softer side, especially toward the young and lost Sawyer. Allen makes the crowd laugh and showcases her impressive voice and range when kicking off the turning point song, Sunny Side to Every Situation.
Bob McCarty plays Andy Lee, Marsh's dance instructor, and performs the part with ferocity; showcasing his extensive dance abilities, mixed with his great singing and acting. He is both a right-hand man to Marsh while also sympathizing with the girls, wanting both to succeed. Tory Casey performs the part of Dorothy Brock, a once great Broadway Star now confined to living in the past, as she learns to cope with giving up the spotlight and pursuing what really makes her happy. Casey impresses in her numbers, showcasing an elegant side as she serenades the crowd during Shadow Waltz and allowing the audience to first feel anger, then sympathy, for her character due to her impressive acting chops.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive, with each member bringing their own flair to the overall performance, impressing the audience with both the talent and quality displayed on the stage.
The set pieces are stand outs in an already impressive show; a huge dime being rolled out during We're in the Money, the break away train car during Shuffle Off to Buffalo, the shadow dancers during Shadow Waltz - all Broadway caliber scenes brought to you by the talented crew of the Charleston Light Opera Guild. While not as intricate as some of the other set pieces, my personal favorite is the minimalist approach to Sunny Side to Every Situation using only darkness and vanity mirror lights. It's impressive and unexpected, a great way to draw attention to the performers while also giving them a chance to rest their feet.
Director and Choreographer Nina Pasinetti showcases her attention to detail as no moment in 42nd Street is wasted; actors are constantly changing into new costumes, each more fantastic than the one before, while dancers are continually raising the stakes - performing more intricate dance moves with each number. The set is constantly changing and the lighting, acting, staging, dancing, and set design all mix to provide a show you'd hardly believe was a local performance and not a touring production. Pasinetti is a true asset to the Charleston theater scene, ensuring that high quality theater is always available for local audiences.
42nd Street is everything that theater should be; beautiful, touching, funny, impressive, and magical. It is why we go to the theater. There's no better way to spend two and a half hours than watching a group of extremely talented performers sing and dance their way through iconic songs and set pieces. Go to this show - you won't be disappointed.
42nd Street has five more performances: May 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th, 2019 at 7:30 PM and May 5th, 2019 at 2:00 PM. All performances are held at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center Little Theater located at 200 Civic Center Dr, Charleston, WV 25301. Tickets are $25 and are available at the box office before shows or online at https://www.charlestonlightoperaguild.org/home/buy-tickets
Photo Credit: Brian Marrs, http://brianmarrs.com/