The Walnut Street Theatre welcomes an all new production of Broadway’s ultimate musical comedy this holiday season. The theater’s performance of “42nd Street,” which runs until Jan. 7, proves to be a feast for the eyes and ears, if not all of the other senses.
“42nd Street” tells the story of a starry-eyed chorus girl who hopes to make it to Broadway, and the producer who can make it all happen. Taking place in the middle of the Great Depression, “42nd Street” follows acclaimed Broadway producer Julian Marsh as he faces one debacle after another in preparation for his biggest show yet.
His troubles come to a head when leading lady Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle on opening night. The hopes of Marsh and the entire cast fall on Peggy Sawyer, a talented but inexperienced chorus girl from Allentown.
As she is about to take the stage, Marsh tells her, “You’re going to go out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!” In this fashion, “42nd Street” celebrates Broadway dreams and the hope of a broken nation.
A show that could stand on its script and musical score alone, “42nd Street” is worth seeing in almost any theater. Over¬all, the Walnut Street Theatre’s production shines in dance and costuming, while the singing and acting are moderate.
Newcomers and accomplished actors alike fizzle in roles for which they seem poorly cast. However, mediocre acting and vocals do not detract as much as might be expected from the show as a whole.
Upbeat numbers like “Go Into Your Dance,” “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle off to Buffalo” and of course, “42nd Street,” prove to be show stoppers.
These timeless songs, along with the mind-blowing tap dancing and lavish costumes that accompany them, are enough to make an audience forget about the less than compelling delivery of most of the show’s dialogue and song.
Many of the Walnut’s actors boast impressive on- and off-Broadway experience, but struggle to bring their talents to the characters of 42nd Street.
Mark Jacoby, a Broadway veteran, proves to be the lone exception. Playing producer Julian Marsh, Jacoby fully conveys the passion and desperation of a man on the brink of losing everything.
Cara Cooper shows that sometimes life does reflect art. Like her character, Peggy Sawyer, Cooper moves from chorus girl to leading lady, having just completed a turn in the ensemble of Broadway’s “The Wedding Singer.”
Cooper’s dancing is superb, but when her toes stop tapping, she can’t seem to find a connection with the audience.
Her character transformation hardly registers, and only in her last number does she truly shine.
Susan Cella, Katie O’Shaughnessy and David Elder, who all have solid Broadway backgrounds, don’t seem to be able to translate their talents to “42nd Street”‘s youthful and upbeat tone.
The behind-the-scenes star of the Walnut’s production of “42nd Street” is costume designer Colleen Grady. This season marks her 10th with the Walnut Street Theatre. “42nd Street” features 176 eye-popping and elaborate costumes.
Showstoppers like “Dames,” “42nd Street,” and the finale showcase some of Grady’s finest work.
For tickets and information about “42nd Street,” call the Walnut Street Theatre’s box office at 215-574-3550 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org and be sure to ask about student discounts.
Mary C. Schell can be reached at email@example.com.