Broadway in Chicago’s “42nd Street”, the national touring company version, now playing through March 20 at the Cadillac Palace Theater, 151 W. Randolph, is a fast-paced rollicking extravaganza of a musical comedy about a musical comedy–an essentially American song and dance classic.Based on Busby Berkeley’s 1933 film and a novel by Bradford Ropes, the book was written by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, directed by Mark Bramble, and choreographed by Randy Skinner. The superlative design team includes scenic design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by Roger Kirk, lighting design by Ken Billington, and sound design by Todd Ellison.
The cast and attendant ensemble, singers and dancers all, stars Caitlin Ehlinger as Peggy Sawyer, the ingénue who came to the Big Apple and ascends to star, Matthew J. Taylor as Julian Marsh, the impresario that grudgingly lets her in his show and is persuaded to give this newcomer her big chance, and Kaitlin Lawrence as Dorothy Brock, the fading star whose broken ankle paves the newcomer’s way.
The energy of this production takes off like a runaway freight train and is sustained from the first moment through the last by a large and talented cast of long-limbed smiling performers singing and dancing their hearts out . The score is filled with some of the most memorable and beloved songs ever to hit Broadway, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, including, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “We’re In The Money”, and “Lullaby of Broadway”.
The sounds of tapping feet on stage and staircase echoed through the gorgeous rococo theater which swelled with the crystal clear joyous voices and the beat of the band. What’s more, the story rings authentically true-the humor, good natured camaraderie and enormous effort required to stage a successful musical comedy is reflected back at the audience, who adored this show.
To call the production lavish is a serious understatement! It opens with a phalanx of seemingly motorized, percussion driven feet and legs seen at first from the knees down. Then it swept us along until the very last show-stopping number, “42nd Street”, which displayed the entire cast of dancers trumpeting the great show tune under a radiant blaze of lights, in glittering costumes, and grinning broadly, while hoofing in sync to beat the band.
In fact, many of the numbers brought down the house , treating the delighted enthusiastic packed crowd to an exhilarating spectacle. The dancers pounded it out with balletic grace, linking arms, holding hands, high-stepping, kicking left, kicking right, dancing solo, dancing as duets, as trios, in groups, in a pyramid, up and down the vast broad staircase. Always in unison, singing as they go, in glorious short costumes , period ensembles or evening dresses for the ladies and streetwise, country club casual or tuxedos for the men, they performed with exuberant skill at a jaw-dropping pace. This cast acted, tap-danced and belted out the tunes with a gusto and sheer athletic prowess that swept the audience along in a breathless desire to see more, more, more!
This show is highly recommended; to get tickets for “42nd Street”, and other great “Broadway in Chicago” productions, call their ticket line at 800 775 2000, or go to www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Photos courtesy of Chris Bennion