Review - 42nd Street (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

No overture (regardless of how irresistibly brash and brassy it may be) can prepare audiences for the thrill of the opening number of 42nd Street. The curtain rises on rows and rows of bright eyed, fleet footed dancers, tapping in perfect synchronicity, as if their lives depend on it. It's so good it's practically overwhelming. And from that moment on, 42nd Street just keeps outdoing itself.

The cast of 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
It's 1933 and powerful Broadway producer Julian Marsh is putting on a show. A musical comedy, in fact, named Pretty Lady. Young out of towner Peggy Sawyer is desperate to make it into the ensemble, but when she clashes with Pretty Lady's demanding leading lady Dorothy Brock, Peggy finds that a life on the stage may be much more challenging than she anticipated. 

The leading light of 42nd Street is undoubtedly Clare Halse, who radiates pure joy as aspiring chorine Peggy. From the moment she enters the stage, it's clear that her Peggy is a star on the rise, a bundle of energy and talent held together with a lucky scarf and a Broadway dream. Halse and Ashley Day, who charms as temperamental tenor Billy Lawlor, showcase what is probably the most awe inspiring, jaw dropping display of dance virtuosity on the West End right now. In fact, the whole ensemble glows with talent a precision, bringing choreographer Randy Skinner's work to life.

Bonnie Langford and Ashley Day in 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
Additionally, veteran stage and screen star Bonnie Langford is every bit the superstar as Dorothy Brock. In a hilariously ironic stroke of casting genius, the infamously talented dancer plays a character who is cursed with two left feet, but she is still able to shine vocally, and exudes class in a number of gorgeous solos.

The whole production is haloed in glamour (Roger Kirk's ritzy costume design for showstopping sequences such as We're In The Money and the title number transform the cast into a shimmering ocean on stage) whilst maintaining a sense of ramshackle 1930s zeitgeist. 42nd Street does take place right after the Wall Street crash, after all. The dancers make so little that they have to share a teabag between 5 cups of hot water, and the initially unlikable and overbearingly commanding presence of Tom Lister, who barks rather ferociously as Julian Marsh, makes all the more sense when it becomes clear that Pretty Lady may be all that can save him from financial ruin.

The cast of 42nd Street
Photo credit - Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
Being based on a film from way back in 1933, 42nd Street is hardly the most modern musical in London, and some outdated lines and plot points do feel a little uncomfortable, but the musical is so over the top that it never seems malicious at all. 

There is no musical to compare to 42nd Street, in terms of scale, blinding glitz, and sheer joie de vivre. Come and meet those dancing feet at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until January 2019!