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A reviews round-up for 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Classic Broadway musical 42nd Street has now opened in London’s West End. Much touted as ‘a dazzling and romantic homage to the world of musical theatre’ the all-singing, all-dancing musical, certainly lights up the West End’s biggest stage.

Light on plot and with a decent amount of sexism (typical of the period, but quit out of touch for today), it’s universally known that this show is all about the glitz, glamour and spectacle of the chorus girls tapping their way to stardom.

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Check out our reviews round-up from The Observer, Guardian, Times, Telegraph, The Stage, TimeOut, Financial Times and Evening Standard

42nd Street runs until 22 July 2017 at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Observer

“Forget La La Land. If you want to see hot hoofing, go to Mark Bramble’s production of 42nd Street. The dancing is more nimble, varied, and imaginative. But it’s the ensemble, choreographed by Randy Skinner, that makes you gasp.”

Susannah Clapp, Observer

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STAR RATING The Times

“This is an old-fashioned glamour musical that keeps on giving when others would have called it quits. Every female leg, dressed in fishnet tights, is poised at exactly the right angle. Every behatted head is tipped just so. The costumes are sequins, glitter, silk and satin. There is an entire ostrich farm of feathers on stage. The tap dancing by the ensemble of 40 (!) is extraordinary.”

Ann Treneman, The Times

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STAR RATING Financial Times

“The plot is wafer thin, but this adaptation of the 1933 film is all about the incredible dance routines”

“But it’s not a show that can really be bothered with plot — one lyric even says as much (“Who cares if there’s a plot or not?”). There’s a rough stab at one: a sweet girl lands a part in a show; the ageing star (Sheena Easton, in great voice but stiff form as the over-ripe diva) breaks her ankle; our heroine steps into the breach. There are also some sketchy love triangles and a desultory threat of gangster involvement. But none of it comes to anything, the character motivation is hazy to say the least and the dialogue contains lines that a motivational greetings card might reject.”

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STAR RATING The Guardian

“If you like musicals staged with machine-like precision, then this is the show for you.”

“But however welcome it is to see Sheena Easton on stage – and the dancing is excellent – there is something curiously heartless about this revival of a musical first seen on Broadway in 1980. In all honesty, I’ve been more moved by a military tattoo.”

“The book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble also sometimes beggars belief. You wonder how the actor playing Peggy keeps a straight face when, after her first-night triumph, she tells the bedazzled Marsh: “You were inside me pulling the strings.”

“the dancing distracts us from some of Dubin’s dubiously sexist lyrics. In this day and age it is astonishing to hear the chorus sing, in Keep Young and Beautiful, “What’s cute about a little cutie is her beauty, not brains.”

“The energy displayed is remarkable but there comes a point when one craves a little humanity. You get a touch of it from Easton who, in I Only Have Eyes For You, reveals a raw tenderness that belies the show’s assumption that the ageing star is over the hill. Clare Halse as Peggy dances well without persuading you the character would become an overnight star and Tom Lister as the autocratic Marsh lacks the menace that Jerry Orbach brought to the role on Broadway.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“This production by co-author Mark Bramble is all about the spectacle rather than the story. Luckily, there’s a superabundance of spectacle to revel in, as an impeccably-drilled cast of more than 50 tap up a continual storm to some very tuneful songs.”

“Particularly delightful is We’re in the Money, a glittery number in gold sequins in which the dancers go to work atop large model dime coins.”

“And yet. The characters are wafer-thin, the plot hokey and we simply don’t care whether ‘legendary’ (apparently) director Julian Marsh’s (Tom Lister) latest extravaganza will make it on the Big White Way once stroppy star Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton) breaks her ankle. It’s even hard to be over-bothered about the fate of chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse, who tap dances better than anyone I have ever seen), so little back-story is she given.”

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“If you don’t like tap-dancing, run for the hills: 42nd Street is the tyrannosaurus rex of tap.”

“There’s no let-up from the moment the red velvet curtain rises – pausing to show tantalising rows of dancing feet – on a frenetic rehearsal scene, the company paddle-flapping in sync like demented penguins, right to the titular finale song, in which the dancers, all in silver and gold, cascade down a staircase, which lights up on cue, like a human lottery win.”

“Hats off to the principals – Sheena Easton thrilling of voice and haughty of mien as insufferable (and suddenly incapacitated) leading lady Dorothy Brock (trailed by Bruce Montague’s old-hound-dog of a sugar-daddy investor Abner), Tom Lister as the bellowing Marsh, and Clare Halse as the resplendent Peggy. But the garlands belong to the ensemble, dancing on the spot as if gliding on ice, wind-milling arms furiously yet gracefully. An American classic right royally revived.”

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Stage

“When that army of dancers gets going, when the rows of lights start twinkling and tap shoes hit the bleachers extending towards the audience from the back of the stage, it’s simply, overwhelmingly, stunning.”

Tim Bano, The Stage

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Helmed by Broadway director Mark Bramble, ‘42nd Street’ is as American as a McDonald’s apple pie, a steaming, golden spectacle of showbiz glamour. Fittingly, the plot’s strictly vanilla.
“This show has a few talents that help it rise above the mundane. Firstly, the wise-cracking book, which is full of bitter, sharp-eyed one liners.

And then, between the jokes, there are songs, songs, songs. Harry Warren and Al Dubin might not be the best-known musical theatre team on the block, but they light up ‘42nd Street’ with an electrifying hoard of hits.

But most of all, this show socks you over the head with good old-fashioned spectacle.”

Alice Saville, TimeOut

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