From the second the curtains opened a mere two feet to show an array of beautifully coloured tap shoes moving in unison, I knew I was in for a night of great entertainment.
42nd Street, the 1980 musical with book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer, and music by Harry Warren is full of familiar songs from the movies of the 1930’s (and the Merry Melodies cartoons of our youth!).
Directed by David Mackay, the show was well cast and moved along at a great pace. Great use of the space was made with simple but effective sets making for quick moving scene changes with little fuss.
The orchestra was very tight and had the audience captivated from the first few bars of the overture. Musical director Daniel Heskett (conducting with trumpet in hand no less!) produced a great sound that took us back to the big band sounds of the 1930’s with gusto.
Fiona Luca-Kingsbury deserves special mention for the incredible choreography displayed in this production. The tap numbers were rehearsed to perfection with barely a toe out of place. The choreography was spot on for the period and filled every corner of the stage, a particular highlight being “We’re in the Money!” with the stage packed with smiling faces dancing on dimes.
The show was lead beautifully by Rebecca Wik as Peggy Sawyer and Chaise Rossiello as Billy Lawlor. Wik as New York City new arrival Peggy who is ready to take on the city and make her dreams comes true is sweet, funny and sings beautifully. She dances with pizazz and the chemistry with Rossiello as Lawlor is believable and endearing.
Rossiello is a powerhouse as lead tenor Billy Lawlor. It is nearly impossible to take your eyes off him when he is on the stage; he is commanding, and his dancing is outstanding. Whilst at times his vocals let him down with lack of power and range, this is easily forgivable when he dances around the stage with ease and style.
Julian Marsh, notorious Broadway director is portrayed well by Chris Anderson. The character is believable as he moves from tyrant to friend, and his performance of “Lullaby of Broadway” is a highlight, with his elegant voice and convincing story telling.
Sally-Anne Cowdell presented us with Dorothy Brock, Broadway star who is somewhat past her prime and well known for her lack of ability to dance. With a voice that was sultry, sexy and rich, it was an absolute pleasure to see this character come to life. Whilst the chemistry between Brock and her lover Pat Denning (Murray Plowman) was questionable, her performance of “About a Quarter to Nine” with Peggy (Wik) in act two was a lovely moment showing the softer side of this larger than life character.
The leads are ably assisted by a colourful array of supporting performances, each a pleasure to watch. Maggie Jones, Broadway writer and performer, is played brightly by Cindy Lee, making the character of this song writer and mother hen delightfully sweet and loveable. She sings the role with ease, and worked well with Casey Tucker as Bert Barry, fellow writer and character performer.
A stand out in the supporting cast is Lauren Flood as Anytime Annie. With a bright bubbly voice, incredible presence and strong dancing, Flood captures attention every time she steps on stage. Her comedic timing in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” had the audience grinning from ear to ear.
The ensemble were a talented bunch of performers who were obviously having the time of their lives on stage. The female ensemble were particularly strong vocally, and the boys held their own against them for most of the show.
The costume team lead by Maxine Urquhart should be very proud of what they have achieved. So many sequins and sparkles, matching colour coordinated tap shoes to each of the ladies outfits, elegance and style everywhere you look. This show is a visual delight.
All in all, this was a community production of a high standard. It was obvious that although small, the audience had a wonderful time and all left with a smile on their face and a tune in the head.
CenterStage is definitely a company to watch in the future. I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us next.