Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot is fairly thin but still fun and charming. When Broadway director Julian Marsh plans to put on a show in the middle of the Great Depression, he has a casting call for the kids in the ensemble. The show will feature former star Dorothy Brock and, while Marsh thinks Brock is past her prime, he needs the funding for the show that Brock's wealthy boyfriend Abner Dillon has agreed to put up. Ingenue Peggy Sawyer, fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, shows up to audition and immediately clashes with Brock. When she stumbles into Brock during rehearsals making Dorothy fall and break her leg, does that mean the show will close and they'll all be out of a job? Or is there someone who could possibly fill in for Dorothy? While the answers to those questions aren't too hard to guess, 42nd Street has a pleasant way of getting to its sunny and upbeat ending.
The show is based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 film of the same name and features a score from the 1930s composing team of Harry Warren and Al Dubin, including such familiar songs as "We're in the Money," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Lullaby of Broadway," "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," and the title song. While the plot is light, the dancing is what makes this show soar, and director and choreographer Cambrian James has created dozens of eye-popping dance routines that include some sensational tap numbers.
Brie Wadsworth-Gates is appropriately eager with a bright-eyed and sunny disposition as Peggy. Her singing voice is warm, her dance steps perfect, and she brings the right level of energy to this joyful young woman. As Julian Marsh, Brandon Zale is firm and unwavering in the demands he puts on the cast of his show and the people who work for him, yet we also see in a few moments the warmth underneath his harsh exterior. While Marsh doesn't have much to sing, Zale has a strong voice that delivers. Rochelle Barton oozes classic movie star glamour and star power as Dorothy. She is appropriately forceful yet kind and lets us see Dorothy's vulnerability. Her singing voice shines on her songs.
In the supporting cast, Brandt Norris is bright and charming as Billy, the featured male performer in the show within the show; understudy Gina Guarino is brassy and very funny as Maggie, one of the show's songwriters; and Jere Van Patten is fun and warm as the other songwriter, Bert. Tyler Brignone and Mark Groberski add some nice dimension to the otherwise two-dimensional roles of Pat, the man Dorothy is in love with, and Abner Dillon, respectively. Sarah Cleeland, Ava Cusiter, and Diana Stapley are fun as Peggy's friends in the show, with Cleeland especially bold, bright and brassy as Anytime Annie; and Greg Rawlings is great and strong as Julian's dance captain, Andy. The ensemble excels in delivering the many dance numbers required with perfect precision and non-stop joy.
McKenna Carpenter's scenic design uses only a few, small movable set pieces, but the walls and floor of the theatre are dripping with gold art deco touches and a New York City skyline silhouette that evokes the time and glamour of the period. Tia Hawkes' costumes are period and character appropriate, with outfits that perfectly match each dance and song in the show. The lighting by Ashton Corey paints lovely stage images, and Cathy Hauan's music direction delivers clear and bright vocals from the entire cast. There are so many fast costume changes in the show that I have to give credit to stage manager Boyd Cluff and assistant stage manager Kate Minor for how seamless they appear.
With winning performances, great creative elements, and some of the best tap numbers I've seen in town in the past few seasons, 42nd Street at Hale is a winner.
42nd Street runs through April 1, 2023, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, please visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Producers & Casting Directors: David & Corrin Dietlein