Thoughts On: 42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

42nd street west end

On my birthday I got itchy feet about spending the evening in, so my housemate and I checked out the rush options on Today Tix, and decided that 42nd Street would be a fun night out.

42nd Street is a show that feels incredibly old-school, and is based on a 1933 film, but was originally staged in 1980, so that long ago. It follows Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), an aspiring chorus girl from Pennsylvania who manages to get herself cast in the new show produced by Broadway impresario Julian Marsh (Tom Lister), and starring one-time diva Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton). As this is old school musical theatre,  due to a variety of twists, Peggy is thrust into the spotlight.

Much like An American in Paris, Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart’s book is not particularly ground-breaking, and at times made me come quite close to rolling my eyes, and the first act in particular feels quite long. I could have also done without the weird quasi-romantic plotline involving Peggy and another character, which in these days of Weinstein felt a bit…creepy. However, Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s music is played wonderfully by the orchestra and you can’t help but hum along to the score as you leave the theatre.

clare rickard ella martine jasna ivir clare halse emma caffrey 42nd street

Again, like the other show, the real star of 42nd Street is the dancing. The curtain opens on the cast’s tapping feet, and the ensemble in particular seem not to stop dancing for the entire show. Randy Skinner’s choreography is just excellent, and the cast just seem to have boundless energy, there were plenty of moments where I almost wanted to clap in the middle of the routines.

In terms of performance, Clare Halse is great as the endlessly perky Peggy, and is a great dancer. Stuart Neal is also a lot of fun as Billy Lawlor, the self-important lead actor of the central show, and I loved the chemistry that he and Halse had in the ’42nd Street’ tap routine. Sheena Easton is in great voice, and does well with a character that is slightly weirdly written, and I’d admit that I found Tom Lister fairly one-note as Julian.

There is great supporting performances from Emma Caffrey, Clare Rickard and Ella Martine as some of the chorus girls who take Peggy under their wing, and I thought Martin McCarthy who was on as show choreographer Andy Lee was also excellent. Really, I wish I could name check the entire ensemble who work so hard, and really make 42nd Street the fun night out that it is.

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clare halse 42nd street

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