42nd Street Review at Newcastle Theatre Royal
42nd Street – Tuesday 10th October
Roll up, roll up the wonderful 42nd Street has taken to the stage of Newcastle Theatre Royal and you certainly will not be disappointed.
Fresh off the bus from small-town America, young and beautiful Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City dreaming of her name in lights. She quickly catches the eye of a big-time director and lands a spot in the chorus line of Broadway’s newest show… and when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets her shot at stardom. It was so wonderful watching this chorus take the chorus line – probably feeling like real life for a lot of the cast.
There was just boundless energy upon the stage and I truly couldn’t take my eyes off of it. During the huge dance numbers I just didn’t know where to look as it was beyond impressive. As a huge lover of the classic shows I just couldn’t wait for this one. Packed to the brim with recognisable songs such as 42nd Street, We’re in the Money and Lullaby of Broadway you couldn’t help but smile throughout. Once again, it was an older audience who had filled the seats ready to watch an all time classic. The audience reaction throughout was truly priceless and you could just see how much acclaim this show has to the older generation.
The ‘original showbiz musical’ was jam packed with famous faces including Faye Tozer of Steps fame, Samantha Womack and the wonderful Les Dennis. However, I was mightily impressed with the chorus and their unbelievable talents both singing and dancing. With a decent sized cast they filled every corner of the stage with pizzazz and true razzle dazzle.
I have never seen this show before but instantly connected and fell in love with the concept and characters. Based around America’s Great Depression in the 1930’s the great director Julian Marsh tries to produce a show called Pretty Lady in a time where money was incredibly tight. Love stories are cleverly woven into the story and are not overbearing or sickly sweet. I really enjoyed the love story of Peggy and Billy Lawlor- so simple and interwoven perfectly throughout the story. This show has transcended generations originally being released in 1933!
From the off, the staging was beyond beautiful. So cleverly crafted, with a great use of screens and projection to create the New York City scene. The gauze was used to great effect and enhanced the opening so much. It used a two tier stage and this gave great dimension to the performance too. As always with these professional shows the moveable staging of the stairs and dressing rooms was so slick and effective never breaking up the scenes. I particularly adored the setting during the performance of the Pretty Lady show with the decadent Art Deco backdrops and everything was laden with glitz and glamour.
Moving on from the scenery, the costuming was just breathtaking. I audibly gasped at the show costumes which were embellished to the nines. My favourite costume had to be the chorus dressed as poppies- ingenious and beyond fabulous. Everything was perfect even down to the matching tap shoes for the costumes. They fit perfectly on every cast member and the men looked so suave throughout too. Probably the best costuming of any show I have ever seen. Bravo to the wardrobe team of Bethan Price, Evie Houston and Emily Fenton.
The cast had talent in abundance and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such slick choreography put together on stage either. Can you tell I was just so impressed throughout? The choreography was in perfect timing and the talented cast really brought it to life. There are some gigantic tap numbers throughout this show such as The Audition and We’re in the Money. I think they managed to fit every single tap step possible into this show and the unison in which they did such quick tap routines blew my mind. How does a cast of fourteen dancers hit every single beat at the same time? Bill Deamer did a truly splendid job of bringing these songs to life. They jumped off of the stage and straight into the audience’s hearts.
It was also wonderful to see the band in the pit and to see the orchestra being led by such a young and talented Musical Director in Grant Walsh. His ten piece band consisted of reeds, trumpets, trombones, a double bass, percussion and of course the keys. The overture was such a delight to listen to and the band sounded so tight. Not an easy feat but definitely a necessity for such a tricky tap show.
Peggy Sawyer was played by Nicole-Lily Baisden who did this part with such ease and likeability. You couldn’t help fall in love with that vibrant personality and huge smile. She was really pushed to the limit in all areas upon the stage but her dancing was a real stand out for me. Like they said – no one can turn it out like Peggy. The tapping was impressive but those spins were executed perfectly. Her singing voice was also lovely. Her partner in crime Billy Lawlor was played by the stunning Sam Lips. He had the characterisation of this character nailed especially with his robotic tendencies during his acting scenes. His voice was heavenly and some of those tenor notes he hit and held were something to behold. A real stand out performance of the evening for me.
Another stand out performance and a huge surprise was by Faye Tozer who played the witty Maggie Jones. She played this comedic role brilliantly and her accent was great as well as her stunning singing voice. Her partner Bert Barry was played by the loveable Les Dennis. He did a stellar job and really milked his comedic timing he has built into his craft throughout the years. I was really impressed with these two.
Samantha Womack played the glamorous Dorothy Brock well and I particularly enjoyed her first singing scene with the comedy lighting and her attempts to dance. She had some difficult songs to sing and I did think this showed at times however, her duet with Peggy, About a Quarter to Nine was stunning. Her onstage lovers, Abner Dillon played by Anthony Ofoegbu and Pat Denning played by Oliver Farnworth did a great job too.
Once again, I will go back to the chorus though and they were all so strong. The harmonies and singing throughout were powerful and on point and I loved their song Getting out of Town. All of the voices were just outstanding as well as their impressive dancing. I could really see how much dedication and love had gone into creating this masterpiece of a show.
Finally, Michael Praed played the fierce Julian Marsh and I just adored his portrayal. His singing voice was dreamy too and the end of the show when he sang 42nd Street was just the cherry on top of the cake for this great performance.
A real triumph for musical theatre. Such a classic musical brought into the modern day with power, vigor and a whole lot of love. It truly is sweet, sincere and jam packed with high energy chorus numbers. What an evening! I would highly recommend this show for anyone to go and see.
42nd Street plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tue 10 – Sat 14 Oct 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.