Review: '42nd Street' National Tour - Dallas

Joe Gerard

  • Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

42nd Street is the kind of big Broadway musical that just puts a smile on your face. The tap dancing numbers are a pure joy to watch as chorus girls and boys dance in perfect unison. The very fine ensemble currently on stage in this touring show at the Dallas Summer Musicals gives it their all on stage. The reason this show has endured is it’s just plain FUN!

A young girl moves to the big city to pursue her dreams, gets cast in a Broadway show, and ends up becoming a star. Peggy Sawyer, a young girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania, arrives in New York City in 1933 to pursue her dream of being in a Broadway show. She arrives too late to audition for the new musical “Pretty Lady” by famous director Julian Marsh. She befriends some chorus girls and ends up impressing the director. Former star actress Dorothy Brock is the lead actress in “Pretty Lady” because her sugar daddy is the primary investor in the show. The cast travels to Pennsylvania for the out-of-town tryouts and on opening night Dorothy breaks her ankle thanks to Peggy who is promptly fired. Julian and the chorus kids convince Peggy to return to the show because she's talented enough to take over as lead for Dorothy. With only two days to learn the entire show as the new lead, Peggy is put to the test, but rises to the occasion and emerges a new Broadway star.

Photo: Chris Bennion

Photo: Chris Bennion

42nd Street has some well-known classic songs such as “Lullaby of Broadway”, “We’re in the Money”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, and of course “42nd Street”. Every ensemble number is a tap-dancing extravaganza. The dialogue is actually pretty terrible and the plot is predictable, but this is above all a song and dance show. Every song is a visual treat, and well done by a talented cast of singers and dancers. 

Caitlin Ehlinger plays the young and fresh Peggy Sawyer. Peggy is the ingénue who moves to New York to be in a Broadway show. She has natural talent, but no experience either onstage or in love. Ms. Ehlinger looks the part of the doe-eyed newcomer. She actually plays the character a little too sheepish and shy. She whispered a lot of her dialogue in a breathy Marilyn Monroe way. She has a lovely voice too, but she really shines in the dance numbers. Her feet were moving faster than anyone else’s on stage and she never looked tired. 

Julian Marsh is the famous Broadway director with a hit track record. He’s a headstrong leader with a tough exterior, but actually has a kind heart and cares for his cast and crew. Matthew J. Taylor as Julian is really the best actor in the show. He finds the right balance to the character, and he has a booming voice that sounds extraordinary on his big number “Lullaby of Broadway”.

The diva past her prime is Dorothy Brock. Dorothy is using her sugar daddy, Abner Dillon, to get the lead role in Julian Marsh’s new show. Everyone knows Dorothy isn’t that talented and doesn’t deserve to act like such a prima donna. Kaitlin Lawrence plays Dorothy Brock, which is a good role for an actress. A lot of singing and not so much dancing. Ms. Lawrence looks kind of like a young Bette Midler, but doesn’t have near the vocal chops. Considering she does a lot of singing, I wish she had a voice that was a bit stronger and more memorable.

I was additionally impressed with two actresses in supporting roles. Maggie Jones is a co-writer and producer for “Pretty Lady”. She’s brassy, opinionated, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Britte Steele is a scene stealer as Maggie. She hit every punchline and every note just right. It’s a comedic role that Ms. Steele knocked out of the park. Natalia Lepore Hagan plays sexpot Annie, one of the chorus girls who befriends Peggy Sawyer. The tall and beautiful Ms. Hagan adds extra attitude and has real presence onstage. I would have actually liked to see her play Peggy Sawyer.

I can’t say enough good things about the musical staging and new choreography by Randy Skinner. Every number was full of energy and impressive tap dancing routines. It’s not easy to get 40 dancers on a stage in perfect unison, but the inventive choreography highlighted the terrific dancers. 

Costumes by Roger Kirk were also very well done. The 1930’s style costumes were flattering on the ladies and the men looked sharp in suits. The sequined costumes for the dance numbers were flashy and eye-catching. The gold and silver outfits in the “We’re in the Money” number were especially striking. Also, the lighting design by Ken Billington lit up the stage in bright colors. One song called “Shadow Waltz” used spotlights and backlighting to cast dancing shadows across the stage. It was a great effect and added variety to the staging. 

Director Mark Bramble obviously knew the strengths and weaknesses of this show. The show opens with a peek below the curtain at the chorus kids dancing legs. He staged all the dance numbers in an exciting way, and every scene change happened quickly and efficiently. Act One drags in a few places, but Act Two builds momentum from start to finish. 42nd Street is a crowd-pleasing show that will make you want to get up and tap dance out of the theater.

Dallas Summer Musicals
Fair Park Music Hall
909 1st Ave, Dallas, TX 75210
June 28th – July 10th, 2016

Tickets: For dates, times, and ticket info go to or call the box office at 214-691-7200.

Review: "42nd Street" at the Palace Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

The tour of ‘42nd Street’ opened at Waterbury’s Palace Theater last night and the thunderous applause that filled this magnificent venue throughout the performance was only one indication of just how wonderful this “song and dance fable of Broadway” was. Seeing this backstage musical for the first time, I was glad that this sparkling production by Troika Entertainment LLC is the way I will remember it.

With a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble (based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and the subsequent 1933 film adaptation) and music by Harry Warren with lyrics by Al Dubin, this tour was directed by Mr. Bramble himself. It was originally produced on Broadway by David Merrick in 1980. The story focuses on a famed dictatorial director Julian Marsh trying to mount a successful stage production of a big musical during the height of the Depression. There is lots of backstage drama and Mr. Marsh does a lot of yelling, but it is an old-fashioned musical at its best and features an inordinate amount of high-spirited tap dancing that brought down the house.

The show opens with the curtain slowly rising to reveal forty pairs of tap-dancing feet and the production numbers fly fast and furious. The luxe costumes designed by Roger Kirk enter the stage in every hue of the rainbow and make the dances look even better. Massive sets designed by Beowulf Boritt were so elaborate and big that by the second act I began to wonder how they managed to store them all backstage. The pit musicians actually had a reference during the proceedings and played the beautiful score to perfection under the direction of Music Director J. Michael Duff.

The dancing ability among this very large ensemble was impressive to say the least and patrons who didn’t leave before the curtain call were treated to a final send off after the bows that was pretty stunning. The original direction and dances were by Gower Champion, but for this tour the musical staging and new stunning choreography was by Randy Skinner.

Highlights during the show for me were the lyrical “Shadow Waltz” that was visually beautiful, “Lullaby of Broadway,” and of course the title song. (I have had the that 1980s jingle for the NY hotel called The Milford Plaza stuck in my head for weeks.) Other familiar tunes included “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “We’re in the Money,” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

Matthew J. Taylor starred as the notorious but visionary Julian Marsh. Kaitlin Lawrence brought an amazing singing voice to the role of past her prime prima dona Dorothy Brock. Newcomer Caitlin Ehlinger made her tour debut in the role of the new chorus girl Peggy Sawyer and almost never stopped dancing beautifully. Britte Steele was loud and fabulous as producer and co-writer Maggie Jones and Steven Bidwell was her partner Bert Barry. Mark Fishback played Dorothy’s sugar daddy Abner Dillon.

DJ Canady was the suave Pat Denning.

Tenor Blake Stadnik played the leading tenor Billy Lawlor and had the best male costumes, and Natalia Lepore Hagan was the cheeky “Anytime” Annie. Carlos Morales covered the role of Mac the stage manager and several other roles, Lamont Brown was a standout as choreographer Andy Lee and Rob Ouellette (‘The Producers’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre) played (literally) the onstage rehearsal pianist Oscar. Vanessa Mitchell, Sarah Fagan and Mallory Nolting had supporting roles. Kudos to each and every member of the supremely talented and numerous ensemble. CT’s own Kelly Gleason danced in the chorus.

Best quote of the evening for me came from community theatre vet Chuck Stango, who was in the audience with his wife Melissa. He called tap dancing “not something I do well or at all.” We both therefore appreciated the magnificent toe-tapping all the more.

There are two remaining performances at the Palace on East Main Street in Waterbury on Saturday at 2:00pm and 8:00pm and tickets are available at the box office or online  I highly recommend this sparkling production.

Pictured: Blake Stadnik (center) and the ensemble of '42nd Street' Photo courtesy of Palace Theater