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On The Shows Must Go On, Brits Take the American Musical 42nd Street to the Next Level

The Shows Must Go On streamed the 2017 West End revival of 42nd Street, starring Bonnie Langford, on Dec. 4-6

The Shows Must Go On YouTube Channel has been an entertainment treasure for musical comedy fans this year. These full theatrical productions are available to watch for FREE every Friday, starting at 2 p.m. and playing for 48 hours, as a fundraiser for Acting for Others (U.K.), Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (U.S.), the Actors Benevolent Fund of New South Wales (Australia), and/or NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Appeal (U.K.). As of Saturday evening, Dec. 5th, 42nd Street had more than 153,000 views.

Based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes, the 1933 movie musical version of 42nd Street starred Dick Powell as Billy Lawler and Ruby Keeler as Peggy Sawyer, and was a breakthrough role for Ginger Rogers as “Anytime Annie” Lowell. But this story about what happens backstage at a Broadway show didn’t actually make it to Broadway until 1980, where it won the Tony® for Best Musical. In 1984,1980 Broadway production debuted in London, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Musical.

This YouTube version is a 2019 film of the show’s 2017 London revival at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which closed on Jan. 5, 2019. This production is directed by Mark Bramble with choreography by Randy Skinner. The large and magnificent Theatre Royal, Drury Lane stage is perfect for the spectacular sets, designed by Douglas W. Schmidt. Roger Kirk’s costumes add a layer of visual perfection.

There’s no better start to a musical than a tap dance number, performed by a large ensemble. At first, the curtain rises only a few inches from the stage floor, revealing a line of tapping feet. When the curtain rises fully, we enjoy amazing 1930s-style choreography, performed with a fresh youthfulness and energy.

Attention is paid to every detail of what makes a tap dance work: the sound, the precision, the angles, the arms, and the faces. It is an exhilarating beginning to what we’re about to experience. As one YouTube fan commented, “The sound of all the tap shoes is so satisfying.”

Set in 1933, 42nd Street is the story of Peggy Sawyer, a small-town girl, fresh off the train from Allentown, PA, determined to make it big on Broadway. When the leading lady breaks her ankle, Peggy must step out of the chorus and go on in her place. We’re sure you can guess the rest.

Tom Lister plays the role of the show’s the stern director Julian Marsh. Lister nails the familiar tropes as he delivers lines, such as “Anybody who doesn’t think they can take it better quit right now.” Bonnie Langford (of Doctor Who fame) is a treat to see as the fading diva Dorothy Brock.

West End leading lady Clare Halse (Guys and Dolls, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ in the Rain, and White Christmas) is a delight to watch as Peggy Sawyer. The Evening Standard reviewer wrote that Halse “tap dances better than anyone I have ever seen.”

Supporting character actors Jasna Ivir as Maggie Jones, Christopher Howell as Bert Barry, and Matthew Goodgame as Pat Denning are all perfectly cast. Ivir is especially wonderful. She looks like Lucille Ball and sings like Ethel Merman.

Standout numbers include “We’re in the Money,” which begins like a scene from The Little Rascals, with four street waifs wearing black-and-white outfits, and finishes with the full ensemble dripping with gold paillette sequins and dancing on enormous mercury dimes. “Keep Young and Beautiful” features Theatre Royal, Drury Lane stage revolve, adding an enormous flown-in mirror to showcase the kaleidoscopic patterns the dancers create on the floor.

Starting with a production of Anything Goes at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane that my husband and I have attended several years ago, we began to form the opinion that West End productions of American musicals are often better than those on Broadway. It’s as if the English strip the musicals down and rebuild them, with a fresh perspective. The West End doesn’t disappoint — leave it to the Brits to take an American musical to the next level.

The Shows Must Go On streamed the 2017 West End revival of 42nd Street, starring Bonnie Langford, on Dec. 4-6

42ND STREET (2019 film of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane’s 2017 West End revival), co-directed by Mark Bramble (for the stage) and Ross MacGibbon (for the film) and starring Bonnie Langford as Dorothy Brock, Tom Lister as Julian Marsh, Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer, and Philip Bertioli as Billy Lawlor (The Shows Must Go On via its YouTube Channel).

TEASER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn6dID6FHr4.

FILM’S TRAILER: https://youtu.be/ryjdusfIBeE.

FILM’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://42ndstreetcinema.com/.

INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE PAGE: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10140002/.

PLEASE DONATE TO:

Acting for Others (U.K.),

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (U.S.),

Actors Benevolent Fund of New South Wales (Australia), and/or

NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Appeal (U.K.).

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EDITOR’S NOTE:

Nancy Rich is a local director/choreographer, with a love for the performing arts and a passion for supporting local artistic work. Nancy and her husband, Rod, own and operate Monkeybravo, a video production company. Nancy is one of the founders of Actors Comedy Lab and participates in local theater as a hired gun, a volunteer and, on very rare occasions, an actor. Nancy recently wrote a series of monologues called The PRINCESS Talks, performed at the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festival. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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