42ND STREET at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California.
This was my first time to see the show, which like the 1933 movie was based on a novel by Bradford Ropes. Of course, the theatrical version also owes a great deal to the movie, including the Warren-Dubin score.
The show also incorporates the Warren-Dubin catalogue from other '30s Warner Bros. musicals, such as "We're in the Money" from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933) and "Lullaby of Broadway" from GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935).
The overall show was on the weaker end of productions I've seen in the last several years, but the dancing was absolutely stunning, and there's plenty of it. Whatever the show's deficiencies, anyone who loves precision tap dancing shouldn't hesitate to see 42ND STREET.
First, the negatives:
*Most shows at Segerstrom Hall have excellent sound, but 42ND STREET, like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST almost exactly five years ago, had surprisingly poor sound quality at times. It's bad enough when women's high-pitched voices are indistinct, but Blake Stadnik's speaking and singing voice were swallowed up by the theater, especially in his earliest scenes.
*The women's wigs are really, really bad -- big and thick and defying gravity in very odd ways. It's unusual for wigs to be distracting but they definitely were for me in this show.
Now for the things that made it an enjoyable evening despite those issues:
*The costumes are wonderful, especially in the opening scene. 42ND STREET has one of the great opens of all time, as the curtain initially rises only a couple of feet, revealing the tapping feet of the entire cast, their shiny shoes the colors of Easter egg pastels. Absolutely fabulous! The curtain then goes up completely to reveal the cast "rehearsing" in terrific '30s outfits.
*Taylor as director Julian Marsh is the most successful breaking out of the cartoon mold, with a booming singing voice which was most impressive. I was fascinated that, just as the movie ends with Warner Baxter listening to the crowd raving about the show, 42ND STREET doesn't end with a group number, but with Marsh alone on stage singing. It was quite powerful. (And the audience gets a great tap encore during the final bows.)
All in all, a very enjoyable, tuneful evening which I especially recommend for dance fans.
Orange County Register.
Related posts: Tonight's Theater: The Phantom of the Opera; Tonight's Theater: My Fair Lady; Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 14, 2010); Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 22, 2010); Tonight's Theater: Beauty and the Beast; Tonight's Theater: Mary Poppins; Tonight's Theater: West Side Story; Tonight's Theater: A Christmas Carol; Tonight's Theater: White Christmas; Tonight's Theater: The Lion King.