Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: 42nd Street at the Pantages

I've always been a fan of the film version of 42nd Street, despite its somewhat hokey (I consider it sweet) take on the battle to make it in the world of theatre, and even despite Ruby Keeler's painfully bad (but relentlessly earnest) performance. But I had never seen it onstage and when I found out those dancing feet were coming to the Pantages, I couldn't miss it. And I was not disappointed.

42nd Street  has got to be one of the best musicals ever. It's fun and energetic and loaded with great songs, including "You're 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". Set during the Great Depression, the show is about a group of youthful hoofers hoping to make it into the cast of "Pretty Lady", the newest Broadway musical directed by the legendary Julian Marsh. Most of them would be happy just to be in the chorus, but one of them - Peggy Sawyer - will find herself on the fast track to stardom when she's tapped to fill in for the show's injured star.

The show is near flawless. No expense appears to have been spared. The acting pops, the costumes are just stunning, and the choreography and dancing were amazing. It was boggling to me - a definite non-dancer - to see not only how well they danced, but how they did so in perfect unison. The only thing I thought was odd was that in this production (as opposed to the film) they made Peggy a sort of lovable klutz who kept screwing up "Pretty Lady" dance rehearsals. This made it kind of weird that everyone would think of her as the perfect replacement for an experienced star, or anyone else for that matter. But I loved the show so much I was willing to overlook that.

According to their Playbill bios, several members of the cast are making their national tour debuts, including Caitlin Ehlinger, who plays Peggy Sawyer. You can see some videos and pictures from the show on her website. She's a bit of a real-life Peggy, minus the injured star.

The only thing that detracted from the experience was how many people were seated after - well after, in some cases - the show had started. I was in an aisle seat and had to get up twice during the first few scenes to let latecomers in. I had a trio of theatre wonks in the seats behind me who were discussing this during intermission. One of them considered it "disrespectful to the theatre" and I agree. I'm one of the least punctual people you'll ever meet and I made it to the Pantages with plenty of time to spare. In addition, despite an announcement before the show began, someone's cell phone went off during some dialogue. It rang three times before the guilty party turned it off and it was distracting. Again, disrespectful. I put mine on airplane mode just to be safe. It's not rocket science, people.

Nontheless, the show itself is great and I can't recommend it enough. 42nd Street  is at the Pantages through June 19.

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