Review: ’42nd St’

(Above source: Vimeo video)

On May 15, subscription streamer BroadwayHD will bow a filmed version of the 2017 West End production of 42nd Street: The Musical. BroadwayHD costs $8.99 monthly or $99.99 annually, with a one-week free trial. For more info, including device list, visit broadwayhd.com.


BroadwayHD’s film of 42nd Street is definitely worth the price of admission.

Over the decades, PBS has provided a great service by broadcasting top-notch productions of live Broadway shows. But thanks to streamers like BroadwayHD, the at-home theater experience has become a lot richer. Viewers can now catch such shows as the 2017 Broadway revival of Falsettos, Holland Taylor’s one-woman performance as Governor Ann Richards, and headliners Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain in Salome.

Starting this Wednesday, the streaming curtain rises on 42nd Street: The Musical.

Based on the 1933 film of the same name, the Tony-award winning-show was originally produced in 1980 starring the likes of Jerry Orbach, Wanda Richert, Tammy Grimes and Lee Roy Reams, with choreography by Grover Champion. Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble wrote the book, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer.

Bramble, who also directed the 2017 West-End revival, co-directed the filming of that show with Ross MacGibbon for BroadwayHD. That revival adheres to the 1933 film’s story arc of a show about a show.

Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse) is an aspiring singer/dancer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who comes into her own – as if there was ever any doubt – just in time to replace the ailing older, arrogant leading-lady Dorothy Brock (Bonnie Langford) and save the show and producer Jullian Marsh’s (Tom Lister) investment. It must be said that unlike her 1933 film counterpart, the vivacious Langford comes close to stealing the show in most every scene she appears.

Above: Bonnie Langford as Dorothy Brock. Source: Vimeo video

The musical is chock full of well-known period tunes by Warren, Dubin and Mercer, including “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes for You” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

The original film contained only five songs, forcing Stewart and Bramble to pull additional tunes by the songwriting trio from other Warner Brothers films. Those films included Gold Diggers of 1933, Gold Diggers of 1935, Gold Diggers of 1937, Roman Scandals, Dames and Go Into Your Dance.

Above: Tom Lister as Jullian Marsh. Source: Vimeo video

The title song, “42nd Street,” first appears in Act I. It’s the dance audition music that underscores Marsh’s cast selection for his show-within-the-show, ‘Pretty Lady.’ It returns at the end of the second act as an 11th hour, show-stopping extravaganza. This finale alone, with its brilliant tap dancing and highly energetic and stylized music (with more key modulations and climatic peaks than you can count), deserves some credit for reviving Broadway’s fortunes in the early 1980s.

PS: You can rent the 1933 film starring Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee and newcomer Ginger Rogers, starting at $2.99 from Vudu, YouTube and other providers.

Editor’s note: Charlie Greenberg has composed original scores and songs for numerous off-Broadway productions and instrumental ensembles. His new album, Songs of ‘Male Middle-Age-Crazy!,’ is available from CDBaby.

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About Charlie Greenberg

Charlie Greenberg is a NY-based theater and instrumental composer.

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