[All Photos by David W. Clements / DWC Photography. Click any photo to enlarge]
Even if you have not yet been a lucky audience member for Stage Right’s new production of the legendary Broadway musical, 42nd STREET, perhaps you have heard the cheers and tap shoes now blowing the roof off the Crighton Theatre in downtown Conroe. Better hurry if you want to get tickets for this one.
Director, Manny Cafeo, has spared nothing in creating this sensational musical blockbuster, and choreographer, Dinah Mahlman,
must have magic powers of her own as evidenced by the stunning performance of her talented dancers. Even before the opening curtain rises, the arriving audience is made ready for tap dance glory via an onscreen projection of the “Tap Dance in America” video from renowned hoofer, Gregory Hines.
Then it was time to enter the 1930’s world of this musical creation featuring music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, and book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble. Structured as a “play within a play,” the cheerful plot surrounds the backstage story of the rehearsals for a new musical titled, “Pretty Lady.” Michael Martin gives a convincing performance as that show’s authoritative and demanding director, Julian Marsh.
Layne Roberts, with her powerful voice and flair for comedy, provides plenty of campy fun with her diva-like portrayal of the show’s temperamental and fading star, Dorothy Brock. Though she is past her prime, Marsh tolerates Miss Brock as star of the show in order to secure the financial backing of her wealthy boyfriend, Abner Dillon (J. David LaRue).
Speaking of comic flair, it is no surprise that Carolyn Corsano Wong brings plenty of that to her role as Maggie, one of the show’s two writer/producers.
Cain Hamilton plays the show’s handsome lead tenor, Billy Lawlor, and he is quickly smitten by the belated arrival of a pretty would-be chorus girl named Peggy Sawyer (Sara Preisler). The twosome duet beautifully for the cheerful, “Young & Healthy,” but when Peggy is abruptly dismissed by the choreographer, (Adam Isbell), for arriving late to the audition, she collides with the director while scurrying off stage. Thus, we have the makings of the “small town girl makes it big on Broadway” storyline that propels the plot.
What follows is an absolutely splendid parade of great songs and dances, all decorated with the elegant and eye-popping costumes from designer, Debbie Preisler. They bring a seemingly endless and multi-colored world of shimmering glitz and glamour that keeps surprising us from scene to scene amid the pleasant scenic designs of Kara Kowalik. Sound Designer, Ms. Wong, and Musical Director, Ana Guirola-Ladd, have so skillfully incorporated and synchronized the show’s recorded musical soundtrack that one would almost swear there was a full orchestra in the pit. Meanwhile, with huge and hilarious feather boa sleeves on her over-the-top white gown, Miss Roberts (above) leads the talented ensemble for the well-staged “Shadow Waltz” ballet.
The ever-perky Ms. Wong delightfully lights up the stage as she leads the whirling chorus girls in an unusual, seated tap number titled, “Go Into Your Dance.” Then Roberts returns, adorned in lush royal purple chiffon, to sing, “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me.” It is not long before she is back in a glittering gray gown to offer a solid, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” As the cast heads off to-out-of-town tryouts, technical director, Jim Bingham, cleverly takes us all along on the train ride with skillfully added on-screen projections that would also enhance the “Shuffle off to Buffalo” number in Act Two.
The soundtrack volume was a bit too loud as the appealing Mr. Hamilton (looking sharp in top hat, black tie and tails) nicely delivered the tune, “Dames,”
while the ladies strutted on stage in a virtual fashion show of stunning art-deco inspired gowns worthy of Hollywood.
To top it off, Act One concludes as the full cast brings us the show stopping, one-two punch of a dazzling extravaganza that features not only a title song finale, but also a “We’re in the Money” number that features both sensational tap dancing and sparkling emerald green costumes that look to be from the Land of Oz. They should be auctioned off for St. Patrick’s Day!
Of course Act Two is full of more delights as Peggy finds herself suddenly drafted to replace the lead when the star, Miss Brock, is injured in a fall. An enormous and gifted cast too large to itemize here will send you happily home humming tunes like, “Lullaby of Broadway,” “About a Quarter to Nine,” and “There’s a Sunny Side to Every Situation.” In closing, allow me to make a suggestion while stealing a line from the lyric of the show’s title song:
“COME AND MEET THOSE DANCING FEET…” You won’t be sorry!
42nd Street runs thru February 24th with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $24, $20, $15, according to age, with discounts for groups. Reservations are available at www.stage-right.org, or call 936-441-7469 weekdays between 3 and 6 p.m. The Crighton Theatre is at 234 N. Main in downtown Conroe, Texas.
A member of both The Lambs Club Inc. and The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), the columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com . E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.