Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Reagle Music Theatre’s third show of their 49th summer season is the Tony Award winning musical “42nd Street.” It is loosely based on the movie with the same name. The stage musical version opened on Broadway on August 25, 1980 and ran until January 8, 1989 and starred Jerry Orbach as Julian Marsh and Tammy Grimes as Dorothy Brock.
“42nd Street” is the tale of the up and coming chorus girl, Peggy Sawyer who arrives in NYC seeking a career on Broadway. Unfortunately she misses the audition for “Pretty Lady” but suave tenor, Billy Lawlor is attracted to Peggy and gets her to sing with him so she’s noticed by Julian Marsh. She makes an impression on him when she runs into him like a linebacker and he ends up putting her in his show. During an out of town tryout in Philadelphia, Peggy accidentally trips and pushes the prima donna leading lady, Dorothy Brock down which causes her to break her ankle. After this Julian fires her and she decides to return home to Allentown, PA. However Julian, Billy and the chorus convince Peggy to return to the show by singing “Lullaby of Broadway” and she eventually becomes a star. Director/choreographer Eileen Grace and co-choreographer Susan Cheebookjian who recreated Gower Champion’s original choreography with musical director Dan Rodriguez infuse this musical with the high energy needed for this musical extravaganza to become a musical masterpiece. The phenomenal tap dancing and vocal prowess of this multitalented 40 member cast propels the audience to their feet at the curtain call.
Eileen casts the roles splendidly and they deliver the goods in them But since this is a dancing show, the choreography is of the utmost importance. Eileen and Susan recreate Gower Champion’s original dances which I was fortunate enough to witness back in the 1980’s. The precision of the dancers is astounding to behold especially in the opening group tap number with some breathtaking wing steps, “We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway” and “42nd Street” in Act 2. Their dances include all kind of tap, plus the Charleston, kick line, cake walk and soft shoe to name a few. Dan’s 17 piece orchestra which is conducted by Jeff Leonard, is outstanding and the quality of the vocalists is superb especially in “Dames”, “Lullaby” and “42nd Street.” Original scenic design is by Robin Wagner and the multitude of gorgeous costumes is by Theoni Aldredge from her original costume design. The most fabulous costumes are the tap outfits, Dorothy’s gowns, the girls colorful dresses in “Dames” and Peggy’s dress in the finale. Kudos to Bob Eagle, Eileen, Susan and Dan and their artistic staff on one of the must see shows of this summer season.
Leading this huge cast is Rich Allegretto as Julian Marsh. He stepped into this role suddenly and it fits him like a glove. Rich tackles the role of the hard ass director, creating a stellar performance while doing so. His dramatic chops are shown in the scenes where he whips the chorus into shape. His comic side is shown in the “It was grand, really grand meeting you” scene with Peggy Sawyer. Rich makes the scenes crackle with intensity and power and his marvelous voice is heard in “Lullaby of Broadway” and the “42nd Street” finale. Bravo! Playing the bitchy diva, Dorothy Brock is Rachel York. She is phenomenal as Dorothy Brock and all her costumes are gorgeous. I last reviewed her in “Hello, Dolly” in 2009 and “Into the Woods” in 2010 at Reagle and this show is one more feather in her cap. Rachel rants and raves about being treated as the star of the show, as Dorothy. The character is like a 1930’s Cruella DeVille. Her renditions of “The Shadow Waltz”, (ballet dancing by the girls and the guys leaping behind the scrim) “Getting to Be a Habit with Me” and “Quarter to Nine” duet are brilliant but she really shines in “I Know Now” when she finally admits her love for Pat Denning. What a fabulous torch song. Brava!
Mara Cecilia shines as the ingenue, Peggy Sawyer. This girl is not only pretty but she has a marvelous voice which I first heard in “Les Miserables” here and very impressive dancing skills, too. Mara infuses this character with the necessary charm and naive behavior required for this part. She does an excellent job in the Charleston duet dance “Young and Healthy”, the group dance “Go into Your Dance” where she dances better than the other three girls, the rehearsal scenes with Julian where she learns how to act after he kisses her several times and her best number “42nd Street” with the chorus. Splendid job by this young woman. One of the best voices in this show is James Darrah as Billy. He is even more talented then when I first saw him at Theatre by the Sea in 4 shows including “Showboat”, “Annie” and “Barnum” back in 1983. His voice soars off the charts in “Dames” and “Lullaby of Broadway” leaving the audience astounded at the incredible range of his tenor voice. James displays the tender side of Billy during the reprise of “I Know Now.” He is also a fantastic dancer with his most impressive dances in “We’re in the Money” when he tap dances on a huge dime and in the finale while dressed as a sailor who gets shot while dancing with Peggy. Great seeing him trod the boards once again.
Three scene stealing performers are Charley Borden as Andy, Beth Martin Pierce as Maggie and Jerry Walker as Bert. Charley leads the chorus dance in the opening audition number, “The Shadow Waltz”, “Getting Out of Town” with the chorus, “We’re in the Money” and “Dames.” Beth displays her vocal skills in “Go into Your Dance”, “Getting to Be a Habit with Me” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” while in a sleeper berth on a train. Her many one liners hit pay dirt all night long. Jerry leads the chorus in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” while dressed as the groom who strips down to his pajamas. His bride in this latter song is Katie Scarlettt Brunson who plays Anytime Annie. She is a dynamite dancer singer who leads the chorus in “Sunny Side to Every Situation” in Act 2. Katie and Allyson Duarte (who I last reviewed as Sandy in “Grease”)as Phyllis and Ansley Speares as Lorraine, the rich Park Avenue dame, get to dance up a storm and steal many a scene as these bubbleheaded chorines. Dorothy’s suitors are well played in this show by Jack Agnew as Abner Dillon, her rich sugar daddy and Paul Reynolds as Pat Denning, her true love and vaudeville partner. So for a magnificent rendition of this high energy musical, be sure to catch “42nd Street” at Reagle Music Theatre before the cast taps their way out of town for good. Tell them Tony sent you. Looking forward to the 50th season next year.
42ND STREET (3 to 13 August)
Reagle Music Theatre, Waltham High School, 671 Lexington Street, Waltham, MA
1(781)891-5600 or www.reaglemusictheatre.com