Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Spy Love You
Set in the middle of the Great Depression, the plot follows famed Broadway director Julian Marsh who is putting on his latest Broadway show, Pretty Lady, featuring former star Dorothy Brock. Though Marsh thinks Brock is past her prime, he has to keep her in the lead as he needs the funding for the show from Brock's wealthy boyfriend. Meanwhile, ingénue Peggy Sawyer shows up at auditions fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and immediately clashes with Brock, including stumbling into her during rehearsals, making Dorothy fall and break her ankle. Will the show go on? Who could possibly fill in for Dorothy? It doesn't take a genius to figure out those answers or how the show will end. But, while the plot is mostly lightweight and predictable, the show is still a fun backstage drama.
42nd Street is based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 film of the same name and uses the songs from the film which were written by the composing team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, along with other numbers the duo composed. The musical features such familiar tunes as "We're in the Money," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Lullaby of Broadway," and the title song.
From the hair, makeup and costumes to the period appropriate line delivery, director David Hock instills a Depression era style and feel to the entire production. Eloise Kropp's choreography is superb and a nice homage to both the steps that won Gower Champion a Tony for the original Broadway production and Randy Skinner's dances for the 2001 Broadway revival. The ever-changing styles and steps, including an abundance of tap, are executed incredibly well by the cast, with many moments that build and build into a virtual non-stop frenzy of dance. Kropp also appears in a supporting part as Annie and has a solid stage presence, great comedic timing, and is a truly talented dancer. At just 26, and having already appeared in numerous Broadway and regional productions, and being a gifted choreographer as well, I have to imagine Kropp has an incredibly bright future ahead.
Charles Shaughnessy infuses the role of Marsh with an appropriate sense of authority along with an abundance of charm, determination, and truthful advice. While he doesn't get much to sing, and even though his signing voice is just adequate, it still amounts to a well rounded and winning portrayal. Debby Boone is equally as good as Dorothy Brock. She makes all the right acting choices to portray this woman who has been through a lot in her life yet is still determined to succeed, even though we see the vulnerability underneath. The scenes she has with her boyfriend Pat and the one she shares with Peggy in the second act are tender and beautifully done. Her singing voice is rich and vibrant.
As Peggy, Karylin Veres is appropriately naïve and unsure of herself but she also imparts an abundance of spunk and fearsomeness. Veres' dancing and singing abilities are quite good. In the supporting cast, Michael Schauble is playful and charming, with a voice that soars, as Billy Lawlor, the handsome male lead of the show, and Hector Coris and Liora Danine provide appropriate pops of comedy as Bert and Maggie, the comical performers and songwriters of Pretty Lady. Tim Fiscus and Rob Stuart add humor and realistic tenderness, respectively, as Dorothy's two completely opposite beaus. Also, Jeremy Gatlin, Devra Hock and Hillary Conrad add comedy and some skilled dancing as, respectively, Andy, Marsh's Pretty Lady dance captain and two of the dancers in the show who befriend Peggy.
Though the sets, drops and costumes for this production are all rentals, they add some nice touches to the period feel, which easily whisks us back to the 1933 setting. Tylar Talkington's lighting adds some lovely touches throughout and Joni van Rossum's music direction achieves a rich, full sound from the entire cast while the large orchestra delivers an exceptional musical accompaniment under Kevin Hayward's conducting. Only the sound design and balance, which at the performance I attended had the vocals from several of the leads strangely muffled, was a slight disappointment.
42nd Street may have a silly plot that borders slightly on melodrama in parts but it also lovingly evokes a long ago and simpler time. Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's production is not only charming and fun but, with a talented cast who are excellent in delivering the vibrant and spirited choreography and a rich treasure chest of songs from Warren and Dubin, it results in a joyful treat and an infectious experience.
Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's 42nd Street, through July 15th, 2018, at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe AZ. You can get information and tickets on this show and their upcoming productions by visiting www.scottsdalemusicaltheater.com. Tickets can also be ordered by calling 602-909-4215
Directed by David Hock
* Member, Actors' Equity Association