Review: `Blast’

Corrections or additions?

These reviews by Simon Saltzman were prepared for the June 6, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Broadway Review: `42nd Street’

The original Broadway opening of "42nd Street"

took place on August 25, 1980; it was perceptively dimmed by the news

of the death of Gower Champion, its choreographer and director. But

Champion’s swan song also proved to be a wittily affectionate (if

deliberately bloated) version of the 1933 Warner Brothers film,

directed

by Busby Berkeley, the master of kaleidoscopic chorus girl numbers.

This was the Depression Era, "We’re in the Money" film

responsible

for starting an avalanche of backstage musicals, and its Broadway

version in turn was so popular it ran for eight years. Now comes a

first-class revival of "42nd Street" that does more than

approximate

the original — it surpasses it. The cast is actually better and

the splashy musical numbers appear to be more exuberantly danced and

more delightfully staged than ever.

Certainly Champion’s contribution was steeped in an extravaganza of

glorified inspiration. Mark Bramble, who was Champion’s assistant

and co-author of the book, is now at the helm, and doing more than

reproducing the original direction — he has invigorated it. And

the musical staging and choreography, some new and some old, created

and recreated by Randy Skinner, is, despite its homage to a bygone

tradition, extraordinarily fresh. Certainly the book by Bramble and

Michael Stewart (described originally as lead-ins and crossovers)

is no more than a maelstrom of timeworn cliches. From the beginning,

the stage version of this, "You’re going out there a youngster,

but you’ve got to come back a star" saga, was an even more

simplified

reduction of the buoyantly energetic film script, a veritable

cornucopia

of sassy theatrical lingo.

The plot (to use the term loosely) has small-town girl Peggy Sawyer

(acted, sung, and danced with big-town technique by Kate Levering)

landing herself a job in the chorus of a big Broadway musical produced

by the dance-’til-you-drop Julian Marsh (played with a wonderfully

intense sense of desperation by Michael Cumpsty). Giving a performance

that is part ditzy and part dazzling, Christine Ebersole virtually

steals this edition of the show as Dorothy Brock, the jaded and ailing

star who is replaced on opening night by Peggy — who, by the way,

learns all the songs and dances in one afternoon.

Another showstopper is David Elder, as the "Young and Healthy"

dancer in love with Peggy. His assertive yet wholesome wooing,

however,

takes a back seat to his phenomenal acrobatic tapping in the silver

dollared, "We’re in the Money" spectacular.

If Champion himself had a tough time infusing touches of silly

pastiche

into the silhouette spooked "Shadow Waltz," the multi-mirrored

"Dames" parade, and the peek-a-boo Pullman car in "Shuffle

off to Buffalo," Bramble’s hand appears even more assured in the

comedy department. Granted, there is a lot in the show that isn’t

original, just polished. Given the deluge of spirited dancing and

dazzling production numbers, all those great Harry Warren (music)

and Al Dubin (lyrics) songs, and a stage filled with sparkling

performances,

"42nd Street" is like being sent to old fashioned musical

comedy heaven. Four stars: Don’t miss.

— Simon Saltzman

42nd Street, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 213

West 42nd Street, New York. $20 to $90.

Top Of Page
Review: `Blast’

How to describe "Blast?" Try thinking of the

loudest marching band you have ever heard, performing the longest

and possibly most boring half-time show in history. If that image

doesn’t work think of spending May Day in Tiananmen Square. Sixty

very young, mostly white (with a few notable exceptions), very

talented musicians take two hours to go through their highly

regimented and precise routines, waving flags, tossing, spinning, and

juggling rifles, sabers, and batons while blowing on their trombones,

tubas, trumpets, and French horns, all accented by the banging of

drums of all sizes and shapes. It may impress some, but I found this

futuristic, militaristic display of musical robotics uniformly scary.

The show was produced by Cook Group Incorporated, a worldwide

"family" of companies that designs, manufactures, and markets

a complex group of diagnostic and minimally invasive surgical devices

and instruments. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some of

those items were being tossed in the air while I tuned out.

One star: Maybe you should have stayed home.

— Simon Saltzman

Blast, Broadway Theater, Broadway at 53rd Street. $20

to $80. Tele-Charge, 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. Through June 10.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS

same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47) is open daily,

3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for

Wednesday

and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.

The lower Manhattan booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade Center,

is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday from 11

a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Matinee tickets are sold at this location on the

day prior to performance. Cash or travelers’ checks only; no credit

cards. Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.


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