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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,
by Busby Berkeley, the master of kaleidoscopic chorus girl numbers.
This was the Depression Era, "We’re in the Money" film
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
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
reduction of the buoyantly energetic film script, a veritable
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,
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
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
"42nd Street" is like being sent to old fashioned musical
comedy heaven. Four stars: Don’t miss.
— Simon Saltzman
West 42nd Street, New York. $20 to $90.
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
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
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
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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