Bright, Breezy And Simply Dazzling- “42nd Street”Takes Over The Muny Stage

42-42It’s the ultimate backstage musical that has wowed audiences for years. But the Muny has brought a show that simply staggers in scope and dazzles with those tapping feet in this version of “42nd Street.” It never lets up and even after the curtain call, they try to top themselves with a golden staircase and a reprise not to be missed.

Director and choreographer Denis Jones appears to be infused with the soul and spirit of Busby Berkley as he has captured the era of the 30’s in both style and substance. The musical numbers are unparalleled and the talented cast executes with that same spirit. Shuler Hensley is a tough Julian Marsh with a bit of a marshmallow center. His lead on “Lullaby Of Broadway” is spectacular and has the audience gasping for air along with the exhausted dancers. What a number!

42-peggyNewcomer Jonalyn Saxer is the little waif, Peggy Sawyer, who turns into an overnight sensation. Let’s hope she returns to the Muny stage very soon- a real find. Veteran Emily Skinner does a star turn as Dorothy Brock and, I can’t help it, I just love her number, “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me.” Jay Armstrong Johnson is delightful as the brash Billy Lawlor and does a great job with the quintessential number, “Dames.”

42-dorothyAnn Hardada and Jason Kravits are stand outs as the creators of the show that’s about to go on tour and stop the second act with their “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” number. A strong ensemble and singing and dancing chorus simply amaze with their dexterity and stamina. It wasn’t the hottest night of the year so far at the Muny, but it certainly took every ounce of sheer will and electrolytes to get through this one.

Musical director Ben Whiteley led a strong orchestra and the clever set design by Michael Schweikardt fit the mood perfectly. Rob Denton’s lights were exquisite and the costume design of Andrea Lauer was nothing short of brilliant including the wonderful chorus numbers that belied the depression of the era that brought such bright, sprightly shows to the forefront.

42-finaleAfter a season that kept me away from the Muny in my (still) role of caregiver, it was great to get back in the saddle and see what this place was designed for- big, splashy musicals that entertain a new generation as well as treat us old timers to a bit of nostalgia on a grand and glorious scale. Catch “42nd Street” at the Muny through June 30th and then enjoy the essential summer, 4th of July musical next week as “The Music Man” comes to the stage.

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