Book: Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Music: Harry Warren
Lyrics: Al Dublin
Director: Mark Bramble
Reviewer: Paul Downham
The Public Reviews Rating:
The show set in the height of the Great Depression which in 2012 has a certain amount of familiarity follows director Julian Marsh played by Dave Willetts as he struggles to get his latest show ‘Pretty Lady’ ready for opening night. Events take a turn for the worse when his leading lady, Dorothy Brock (Marti Webb) suffers an on stage accident days before opening and is faced with the prospect of cancelling the show unless he can find a replacement leading lady at short notice.
Enter the star of this production, Jessica Punch playing Peggy Sawyer who for this reviewer stood out head and shoulders above anyone on the stage on opening night. Her boundless energy, superb vocals and mesmerising tap routines are a joy to behold. The character of Peggy steps in at the final hour to headline ‘Pretty Lady’ and if the saying ‘life imitates art’ is true Jessica will be a big musical theatre star in years to come.
The cast are led as previously mentioned by two of the most recognisable names in musical theatre, Dave Willetts and Marti Webb. Willetts plays the role of director Julian Marsh effortlessly exerting authority on the rehearsing company whilst showing his softer side during the stand out ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ which reminded me of his performance of ‘Music of the Night’ from Phantom of the Opera such was his vocal dexterity. Marti Webb in playing Dorothy Brock is very well cast as the diva leading lady who’s demands are written down point by point before rehearsals even begin. With Webb you get exactly what you expect, an assured confident performance and a voice to match. I have to be honest though I was not blown away with her in the role however, the role is written in a way where it is to be overshadowed by that of Peggy’s so in that respect a job well done.
The lavish Broadway sets and glittering costumes fill the sizeable stage at the Palace and the transitions between scenes are slick and impressive however, the unquestionable star of the show is the choreography which is faultless in every way. There is a fair amount of tap routines throughout the performance and each one is better than the last culminating in the finale number 42nd Street performed on the iconic lit staircase that stretched the full width of the stage.
The only critism of the show was that the stage crew appeared to be somewhat cumbersome during the performance and could be heard on more than one occasion moving the set during transitions but I’m sure this will improve as the week goes by.
42nd Street is a visual feast and a true musical theatre classic which will never lose its appeal. A toe tapping night out that sent this reviewer home with a spring in his step and a smile on his face!
Runs until the 27th October 2012
42nd Street – Palace Theatre, Manchester,