42nd Street. Music by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin. Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble based on the novel by Bradford Ropes. Original direction and dances by Gower Champion. Directed by Darren A.C. Carollo. Bay Area Musicals, Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102.
The Alcazar Theatre was practically bouncing with the pounding on the boards delivered by the cast of 20 hoofers in their sparkling production of 42nd Street. Now in its third season, Matthew McCoy and his technical crew never shy away from big tasks and this show, directed by Darren A. C. Carollo, lives up to its big promise with delightful performances and some serious tap numbers.42nd Street is the quintessential chorus girl to star backstage fairy-tale that wins over your heart with an enduring classic score, romance and of course, the big production numbers. The original Tony winning 1980 production, with a score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and inspired direction and choreography by the legendary Gower Champion, was a smash hit. The jukebox musical contains songs from the 1933 film adaptation as well as numerous tunes Dubin and Warren wrote for other movie musicals of that period. A 2001 revival also won a Tony for Best Revival.
The plot revolves around tyrannical director Julian Marsh’s attempt to mount the musical extravaganza Pretty Lady at the height of the Great Depression. DC Scarpelli (The Song of the Nightingale, An Ideal Husband) is wonderful as the arrogant, notorious director who must play the game of financial backing by his miscast aging diva and sparking the performances of his ragtag chorus line. The diva with the show-backing sugar daddy is Dorothy Brock, a prima donna who unfortunately can’t dance. Laurie Strawn (The Foreigner, To Kill a Mockingbird) chews up the scenery while onstage in a funny, eventually poignant turn.
Then there’s Peggy Sawyer, an overly enthusiastic Broadway wanna-be from Allentown, PA. She’s got the chops alright, and is taken in by the show’s leading tenor Billy Lawlor, who sees both her star and dating potential. Samantha Rose (No, No Nanette, La Cage aux Folles) is enchanting as the nervous ingénue and is adept at both vocals and dance. Her love interest and the heart of the show is Nikita Burshsteyn (La Cage aux Folles, Urinetown) as Billy. It’s hard to take your eyes off Nikita, he’s such a magnetic figure. Always in character with a huge smile on his face, Burshsteyn is a true triple threat; actor, singer, dancer with a huge career ahead of him.
The supporting cast are all well-done; Marisa Cozart is darling as co-writer and producer of Pretty Lady, Zach Padlo taps is feet off as Andy Lee the dance captain, John Brown as Bert Berry the c o-writer and producer of Pretty Lady, Venis Goodman as the Texas millionaire sugar-daddy, and Peter Budinger as Dorothy’s former partner and paramour Pat Denning.
The score is chock full of big hits: “Your’e Getting to Be a Habit With Me”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and of course “42nd Street”. Standout musical performances are Dorothy and Peggy’s duet “About a Quarter to Nine”, Peggy and Billy’s “Young and Healthy” and Julian’s “Lullaby of Broadway”. Outstanding choreography by Matthew McCoy provides the energy for this production, aided by the musical direction of Jon Gallo and his pit crew. Costumes by Brooke Jennings bring the backstage and onstage look of mid 30’s musicals.
The ensemble (Kevin Singer, John Charles Quimpo, Janet Wiggins, Hilary McQuaide, Catrina Manahan, Danielle Cheikin, Alyson Chilton, Carlos Guerrero, BriAnne Martin, Lindsey Meyer, RJ San Jose, and Leslie Waggoner) must be mentioned for their sheer joy and drive during the many precision danced numbers. Director Darren A. C. Carollo keeps the energy flowing while highlighting the various subplots with care and focus. 42nd Street is an enduring Broadway legacy; so popular that two simultaneous productions are on the boards at the same time. It’s hard not to like this show, and is certainly much easier with BAM’s sterling offering.
Performances run thru December 10, 2017 www.bamsf.org 415.441.6655