Troika Entertainment’s 2015-16 Non-Equity National Tour of 1981 Best Musical Tony Award® winner and the ultimate backstage musical, 42nd Street: The Song-and-Dance Fable of Broadway, will roar into the Durham Performing Arts Center tonight for the first of eight exuberant performances, presented as part of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series. Originally directed and choreographed by the legendary Gower Champion, who died on the show’s opening night (Aug. 25, 1980), this effervescent touring version of the long-running 1980 Broadway and 1984 West End musical features music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, and a book by Michael Stewart and the current tour’s director, Mark Bramble — all based on the buoyant 1933 motion picture, which was based on a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and featured zesty musical numbers by movie choreographer extraordinaire Busby Berkeley.
After making its Broadway debut on Aug. 25, 1980 at the Winter Garden Theatre, 42nd Street transferred first to the Majestic Theatre and then to the St. James Theatre, where it closed on Jan. 8, 1989, after a combined total of 3,486 performances. The score of 42nd Street includes some of the greatest songs ever written for American musical theater, including the title tune, “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “Dames,” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
“The dancing is spectacular, and there are so many great songs, some of which are very familiar …,” says Britte Steele, who plays Maggie Jones, one of the co-writers and producers of the show-within-the show, a new musical called Pretty Lady, whose cast and creative team hopes it will soon be Broadway bound. Steele says, “We have a wonderfully talented young cast who bring a lot of energy to the show every night, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Besides Britte Steele as Maggie Jones, the current tour of 42nd Street stars Caitlin Ehlinger as Peggy Sawyer, an inexperienced but game chorus girl just arrived in the Big Apple from Allentown, PA; Blake Stadnik as tenor Billy Lawlor, one of the stars of Pretty Lady; Kaitlin Lawrence as Dorothy Brock, the show’s star, an aging prima donna with two left feet; Matthew J. Taylor as Julian Marsh, the show’s notoriously hard-to-please director; Steven Bidwell as Maggie Jones’ fellow Pretty Lady co-writer and producer, Bert Barry; Mark Fishback as Dorothy Brock’s well-heeled beau from Texas, Abner Dillon, who’s bankrolling Pretty Lady for her; Lamont Brown as the show’s choreographer, Andy Lee; and D.J. Canady as Dorothy Brock’s former vaudeville partner, as well as former main squeeze, Pat Denning. The tour also stars Carlos Morales as both Mac the stage manager for Pretty Lady and a Doctor; Rob Ouellette as Oscar the rehearsal pianist; Natalia Lepore Hagan as chorus girl Ann “Anytime Annie” Reilly; and Vanessa Mitchell, Sarah Fagan, and Mallory Nolting as a trio of chorus girls named Lorraine, Diane, and Phyllis, respectively.
The tour’s creative team includes 2001 Broadway director Mark Bramble and choreographer Randy Skinner, assistant director Adam Kidd; associate choreographer Kelli Barclay; scenic designer Beowulf Boritt; lighting designer Ken Billington; costume designer Roger Kirk; and hair, wig, and makeup designers Jared Janas and Dave Bova; sound designer Peter Fitzgerald; and production stage manager Donavan Dolan. The show also features musical supervision by Todd Ellison.
42nd Street is the 14th-longest-running Broadway musical, and it won the 1981 Tonys for Best Musical and Best Choreography, plus the 1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography. The 1984 London production won the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical, and the 2001 Broadway Revival of the show — which played for 1,524 performances — won two 2001 Tony Awards, including the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
Britte Steele is a 29-year-old Greenville, SC native who was bitten by the theater bug early. “I danced a lot in my childhood,” she says. “When I was 13, I started using pointe shoes for ballet.” Ankle problems ensued; and Britte Steele switched to musical theater. Her first role was Aunt Ruth, who tries to teach the title character in a musical version of Tom Sawyer how to be a gentleman. “I don’t think that I’d have turned to another art form if I’d been successful in ballet,” Steele says.
Her family moved to Massachusetts, and Steele was graduated in Littleton High School in Littleton, MA, in 2005. She earned her BA degree in Theatre Performance in 2010 from Wagner College in New York City. (Wagner College has one of the nation’s top theater programs, Steele says. Every year 500 to 600 kids audition for admission, but only about 25 are accepted.)
In 2011, Steele played Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn, the gossipy wife of the mayor of River City, IA, in a national tour of The Music Man. It’s a great comedic role.
In the spring of 2015, Britte Steele auditioned for the part of Maggie Jones in the National Tour of 42nd Street. “It’s a really fun role, and we definitely have some very great dancers in this show,” says Steele. “I don’t do as much dancing as they do, but I do have to dance.”
She adds, “Maggie Jones is a very driven and independent woman in a time [the 1930s] when that wasn’t very common. She wants to succeed, and she wants everyone around her to succeed. She’s just really positive, and she embodies the American spirit at that time, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit. She’s really fun to play every night….”
Steele says, “42nd Street is about a small-town girl named Peggy Sawyer, who comes to New York to audition for the next big show, which is Pretty Lady,” starring a long-in-the-tooth Dorothy Brock.
When Brock falls and breaks her ankle on opening night of the show’s out-of-town tryout at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, her fellow chorines push director Julian Marsh try Peggy Sawyer in the part. “So,” Steele says, “Peggy gets a chance to perform on Broadway, and see if she’s got what it takes to be a star.”
Steele says Maggie Jones helps a nervous Peggy Sawyer learn the show and prepare to take advantage of her big break (pun intended). Maggie gets Peggy fired up.
“We bring that kind of energy to the show every night,” says Britte Steele, “and we have a lot of fun.”
When she first saw 42nd Street on stage at a neighboring high school in Littleton, Steele was inspired to watch the 1933 film. She notes, “There are some different characters in the [stage] show…. Some of the songs in the show are classic songs that everyone will recognize, but they serve our plot.” She says there may be new characters, new songs, and additional dance numbers; but 42nd Street is still the same old high-octane musical that’s been setting moviegoers’ toes to tapping for 83 years and rocketing theatergoers their feet at the final curtain for the past 36 years. Troika Entertainment’s current tour, which runs from Sept. 22, 2015 until July 24, 2016, will bring this musical’s infectious high spirits to 62 cities in 27 U.S. states.
SECOND OPINION: April 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article74734612.html; April 30th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Logan A. White for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/2nd-street-star-destined-to-shine-show-comes-to-dpac-next-week/; and April 29th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/lullaby-of-broadway-nd-street-star-tapping-since-childhood/article_e418ae84-0cd6-11e6-ad19-678e118c095e.html (Note: You must subscribe to read this article).
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents 42ND STREET at 7:30 p.m. May 3-5, 8 p.m. May 6, 2 and 8 p.m. May 7, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 8 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $30-$145. Click here for DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/803389.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gz_KFPHWl4.
2015-16 SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: http://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2015-16.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7th, performance.
42nd Street (1933 film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024034/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/616/42nd-Street/ (Turner Classic Movies), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Street_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
42nd Street: The Song-and-Dance Fable of Broadway (1980 Broadway and 1984 West End musical): http://www.42ndstmusical.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/Show/View/1027 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/42nd_Street_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.acu.edu/academics/cas/theatre/documents/42nd-street-study-guide.pdf (Abilene Christian University).
Harry Warren (music): http://www.42ndstmusical.com/creators_bios/harry.php (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/12549 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Warren (Wikipedia).
Al Dubin (lyrics): http://www.42ndstmusical.com/creators_bios/harry.php (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/12855 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Dubin (Wikipedia).
Michael Stewart (book): http://www.42ndstmusical.com/creators_bios/michael%201.php (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/7748 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Stewart_%28playwright%29 (Wikipedia).
Mark Bramble (book and director): http://www.42ndstmusical.com/creators_bios/mark.php (tour bio), http://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/7548 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Bramble (Wikipedia).
Britte Steele (actress who plays Maggie Jones): http://www.brittesteele.net/ (official website), http://www.42ndstmusical.com/cast_bios/britte.php (tour bio), http://www.abouttheartists.com/artists/467762-britte-steele (AboutTheArtists bio), https://www.facebook.com/brittesteele (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/brittesteele/ (Twitter page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)