A Broadway Lullaby That
Will Keep You Awake
Through July 13
The Ogunquit Playhouse
Directed and Choreographed by Randy Skinner
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
At the height of the Great Depression Hollywood produced many feel good musicals that were a source of escape for people struggling through very difficult times. One of the most popular of these was the Busby Berkeley film 42nd Street that starred Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, with music by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. In 1980 Gower Champion and David Merrick brought a stage version of it to Broadway. The play was a huge hit and has been revived repeatedly since then, most recently in London’s West End where it was directed by Mark Bramble with choreography by Randy Skinner.
The latest revival has just opened at the Ogunquit Playhouse with original sets from the London production. Randy Skinner is directing and choreographing this production. Unfortunately, Mark Bramble passed away earlier this year.
The backstage musical about aspiring hoofer Peggy Sawyer having to step in when leading lady Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle during rehearsals for the play Pretty Lady is the standard “the show must go on” theme that was popular in the 1930s. What is so special about this piece is it has many great, if corny, lines, some of the greatest songs ever written for a musical, and stunning dance numbers.
This is one of the largest casts ever assembled on the Ogunquit Playhouse stage, and the sound of all those tapping feet is intoxicating.
It really is all about the dance, and who better to make that happen than Randy Skinner who worked on the original Broadway production in 1980. The dance numbers here are simply exquisite. This is one of the largest casts ever assembled on the Ogunquit Playhouse stage, and the sound of all those tapping feet is intoxicating.
Jessica Wockenfuss as Peggy Sawyer, the starry eyed kid from Allentown, PA who’s golly gee demeanor belies her drive to make it in the city that never sleeps is outstanding. She puts it all together with her lovely singing voice, delivery, and amazing dancing feet. She is a Peggy Sawyer to remember.
Steve Blanchard is Julian Marsh, the hard driving director who gives more pep talks than the manager of a baseball team playing in the World Series. He delivers his lines in rapid fire without missing a beat; “You’re going out there a youngster, but coming back a star”. His performance of Lullaby of Broadway is marvelous. You can just taste the theatre district of old New York as you listen to him sing the lyrics.
In Shadow Dance, Rachel York as the snooty and aging star Dorothy Brock, dances in front of a large curtain on which her shadow is double cast. Ms York and Ms Wockenfuss perform a lovely duet on the classic About a Quarter To Nine. It is one of those great Broadway tunes and gets a bit of a modern arrangement here.
Tenor Billy Lawlor is played by Con O’Shea-Creal. He and Ms York perform another favorite in You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me. Mr. Con-Creal gives a convincing happy-go-lucky Lawlor filled with enthusiasm.
Sally Struthers is Maggie Jones and, as always, brings her wonderful comedic timing to the Playhouse stage. Along with Cliff Bemis as Abner Dillon, Dorthy Brock’s sugar daddy, and Ryan K. Bailer as her not so secret paramour, there is a stage full of talent performing here.
While the story is fun and fast moving, if predictable, 42nd Street is all about the singing and dancing. The numbers are spectacular. We’re In The Money is performed with giant dimes being rolled on stage (They are Mercury heads in keeping with the time frame). Shuffle Off To Buffalo with Kilty Reidy as Bert and Megan McLaughlin as Lorraine, a couple heading off on their honeymoon, is sweet and fun.
The best is saved for last when the stage is filled with dancers on rows of lit stairs tapping away to the title song. Signs with the names of theaters, shows, and performers hang above them while they sing and dance. It is an outstanding number that brought the audience to their feet. It has been said there is a broken heart for every light on Broadway, but these lights bring happiness.
Last month I got to experience the new lighting that was installed at the Playhouse when I saw Jersey Boys. It is an investment that is paying great dividends. Of course, it takes more than lighting to make for great theatre, and those ingredients are in abundance at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Artistic Director Brad Kenney proves over and over again he knows how to choose great plays, find the best talent, and bring in the finest creative teams available. It is all on display in 42nd Street.
If you love a fast paced, toe tapping, Broadway musical filled with some of the best songs ever written, you will find it playing now in Ogunquit, Maine. I loved it and can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t.