The musical 42nd Street, based on an Oscar-winning 1933 movie, has themes as contemporary as today’s headlines. An economic downturn has mobs of dancers swarming to auditions for a new show (and an opportunity for a steady paycheck).
When the show’s star suffers a medical crisis, the entire production faces bankruptcy but the resilient chorus looks for a shining new star to keep the enterprise afloat.
Shorewood Players’ current production of 42nd Street shows that a big, shiny, tap dancing musical from the 1930’s can still delight a 21st century audience. The Friday (6/19) performance drew an enthusiastic full house standing ovation.
As Director Julian Marsh, Drew Martin conveys a public face of confidence and ego needed to produce a big budget show, but has his private doubts. Martin’s performance provides the bedrock on which the production is built.
The role of aging diva Dorothy Brock can be a milestone moment for an actress. Sharon Rise, a local theatre veteran, fills the role beautifully both as the demanding star, but also in her heartwarming transition from diva to mentor of her replacement.
Unknown actresses such as Ruby Keeler and Catherine Zeta-Jones became stars through portraying spunky Peggy Sawyer. Sara Larson, a Viterbo University sophomore, transforms from naïve small-town girl to Chorus Girl and then to the star upon whom the hopes of the show rest. Larson makes that metamorphosis and brings the cast and audience along for the thrilling ride.
Bert (Bob Balderson), Maggie (Ceri Hartnett), Annie (Kathleen Duffy), Pat Denning (J. W. Anderson), Abner (Sal Tomasello), Billy (Will Gobeli) and Mac (Michael Raspanti) give solid performances as colorful characters in this Busby Berkeley kaleidoscope.
But it is the gypsies, the amazing crew of dancers, led onstage and off by Dance Captain Patrick Kendall, who make the show. Dazzling numbers like “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway” and “42nd Street” need a stage full of talented dancers and every one of the 34 cast members (from 9 to 70+ years old) do it with precision. Choreographer Melissa Bloch-Meier deserves a big share of the standing ovation.
Costumers Karen Pogorelc and Kim Huber produced some knock-out numbers of their own. The costumes for “We’re In the Money” are especially fun. Lighting by Matt Carr was a step above what you normally see in community theatre, particularly the “Shadow Waltz” number, showing both the onstage glamour and backstage chaos.
The Director is Steve Parr, well known for his work in professional theatre, TV and film. In creating a success like 42nd Street, Steve has also created a tribute to musical theatre for Milwaukee audiences. Bravo, Mr. Parr. And another standing ovation to the entire cast and crew of 42nd Street.
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