Misstep: “42nd Street”

Presented by North Shore Music Theatre
Music by HARRY WARREN
Lyrics by AL DUBIN
Book by MICHAEL STEWART & MARK BRAMBLE
Based on the Novel by BRADFORD ROPES
Original Direction and Dances by GOWER CHAMPION

October 31st – November 12th, 2017
North Shore Music Theatre
62 Dunham Road
Beverly, MA
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Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Beverly, MA) In the mood for regressive theater that features outstanding tap dancing? If you can stomach a musical with a thin plot that celebrates a time when there was no such thing as sexual harassment, then 42nd Street: The Musical is your show! You will have to try hard to find a script that is as nostalgic for the pre-Harvey Weinstein show business era as this one. It’s a revival of a revival of a 1980 play based on a 1933 movie which was designed to help people remember a time before the Great Depression.

The plot centers around a tap-dancing cast of actors who joyfully and without any introspection dance their hearts out to avoid the threat of the breadline. In walks a neophyte of a dame who quickly gets stalked (but in a fun way) by the show’s lead tenor and ensnared in a good ol’ fashioned cat fight with the past-her-prime diva who only got the part by sleeping with the producer. Overlooking the misogyny of this plot, presented without irony in this production, just becomes too difficult in the “grab them by the pussy” era.

While this production was hard to enjoy, it wasn’t for lack of effort from the actors, who commit fully to this ridiculous world. The numbers are crisp and high energy, and when the dancers start tapping, I can at times forget that there really isn’t much of a storyline.

42nd Street is one of those growing number of jukebox musicals that are there just to give an excuse for song-and-dance numbers. While a handful of these efforts transcend to become iconic (think Grease), many of the rest simply become filler to wind down the season and give actors something to do before A Christmas Carol opens. It might be better to wait for a show that truly wishes good cheer and blessings to all.

 

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