/42nd Street: Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2018)

42nd Street: Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2018)


Sometimes I am reminded of how fortunate and spoilt Londoners are given the choice of musicals on offer. It goes without saying that the West End is ‘thee’ hub of spectacular musicals from the contemporary (Kinky Boots, Jamie: The Musical) to classical productions (Les Misérable sand The King and I). However, fringe theatre and off-West End venues are making a killing with their own productions such as Eugenius! at the Other Palace Theatre and Southwark Playhouse’s recent performance of Bring It On. I’m here to write about 42nd Street now showing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and how unprepared I was for its immensity of sequin shakers and glittering tap dancers.

Cast of 42nd Street, West End 2018 (Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

From the moment the show began, the grand music, show business, glitz and glamour and catchy numbers wowed and grabbed the attention of all eyeballs at the auditorium. Welcome yourself into the 1930s and see 40 dancers tap away to the beat. Director Mark Bramble has devised an awe-inspiring and spine-tingling production that will encourage audiences to appreciate tap dancing, all over again.

Bamble and co-writer Michael Stewart took the Warner Bros. 1933 classic, introduced songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and gave it a major makeover in the 1980s. Producer David Merrick opened the show in Drury Lane in 1984, exclaiming how he wanted the show to be the ‘biggest musical since the Second World War’, and this is more than what the West End had bargained for – it’s simply monumental.

Cast of 42nd Street, West End 2018 (Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

42nd Street’s lead character, Peggy Sawyer is from out of town, but she is determined to get a role in Broadway (Pretty Lady), but tough competition, first-time stage nerves and a slave-driver of a director, Julian Marsh, get in the way of her journey to success. That is until she is finally given the opportunity to be the lead. Yes, the story of rags to riches is predictable, but the staging, set design, choreography and quality of dance performances are far from foreseeable. It is this element of the production, which I found most astonishing. The decadent and sophisticated costumes, the mirror reflective set designs, and collection of on-stage props are just out of this world, and they kept on coming – one can tell this production had a steep budget. The bright neon lights, the golden chandeliers, synchronisation of long legs belonging to gorgeous dancers and finale scene – with all performers moving fast, energetically and perfectly on cue – are just a sample of the many wonders of this tap dancing extravaganza.

Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street, West End 2018 (Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

Credit is due to all principal dancers who are triumphantly radiant on stage. Clare Halse is unstoppable as Peggy and truly impresses with her rapid, elegant dance moves and unconditional smile. Bonnie Langford’s vocal performance has the many versatile attributes of 1930’s New York nostalgia, which makes her performance thrilling and loveable. An American classic and musical dream served on a gold, tap dancing platter.

Bonnie Langford as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street, West End 2018 (Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

42nd Street is showing now at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until 5 January 2019. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to London Box Office’s website here

Photo credit: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg.

The show was reviewed with a complimentary press ticket.