THEATER REVIEW – ’42nd Street’ opens despite some bumps

Heather Richards

Heather Richards
City Times

“I like the show . there are a lot of girls,” John Puente said, after seeing the production of “42nd street” at City College. “The music is good, I like the music . the topic is kind of . is kind of . boring.”

Though theatre gods roll their eyes, Puente may have a point.

The story follows a troupe of actors putting on a show called “Pretty Lady.” The lead is Dorothy Brock, played by Melody Ward, an aging diva whose sugar daddy is financing the show. A young actress from Pennsylvania, Peggy Sawyer, played by Victoria Rees, gets a chance as a chorus girl and a young man named Billy, played by Isaac Jackson, falls in love with her. The show goes to Broadway, Brock breaks an ankle and Sawyer takes over as lead of the show.

The inherent “charm” of “42nd Street,” as Director June Richards put it, was sometimes overshadowed by glitches in the dress rehearsal that will no doubt be amended in the opening. But the show sometimes struggled to reveal the tenor of its content except in the ensemble numbers.

The play moved along quickly and was full of energy. However, the vigor and the heartbreak of the theatre business would have been lost, were it not for the ensemble songs which enchanted the dark theatre with the insatiable desires of those in show business. Billy’s voice swelled in “Beautiful Dames,” and the dancers were cute.

The show slumbered in its opening numbers as though the actors were first acquainting themselves to the weight of a live audience and a full orchestra. The famous songs were hard to hear over the music and the feverish quest for stardom was a feverish quest for volume.

Then, the bumping rhythm of “Getting Out of Town” beat beneath the actors’ lines. Groups of actors swung in from the wings providing a much-needed chorus and the swell, the rhythm, the energy of an ensemble pulled the audience forward into the story. The choreography, done by professor Alicia Rincon, head of the arts department, was smooth and easy, creating a butterfly balance on the stage.

The orchestra was frustrating at times, losing rhythm and distracting the actors. The Dorothy Brock character seemed particularly distracted – letting her eyes fall to the orchestra pit repeatedly.

But as the annoying drama queen whose talent and presence has become cliché, Brock was believable. Coming back at the end of the show to offer wisdom to the young innocent who has taken her place, the two offer the best duet in the show.

The song “Quarter to Nine” is sung from the perspective of a woman waiting for her lover to arrive at 8:45 p.m., and as the leading lady and the former leading lady perform, the song takes on a new meaning.

The lover is not a man. The lover is the spotlight. And they are not waiting for his return, but for the rise of the curtain. It is the theatre that takes them out of the humdrum and the lifeless, much like love. The song was very well done.

As the production neared the end, the energy picked up one last time. Comedy was on cue and scenery didn’t matter.

The ensemble re-entered the stage for “Lullaby of Broadway,” which, after all, is the undertone throughout “42nd Street,” an undertone that was sometimes lacking in this dress rehearsal, but always present in the lyrics and the melodies.