’42nd Street’ raises the roof at Riverside


milt thomas

If musicals with a huge, talented professional cast, live musicians, incredible tap dancing, and brilliant stagecraft can’t get you to the theater, well, nothing will. 42nd Street is the most appropriate finale for Riverside’s 50th season and has everything to charm an audience, whether you are a veteran consumer of Broadway productions or a first time toe-in-the-water visitor to Riverside Theatre.

Set during the early Depression year of 1933, it tells the story of aspiring theater performers hoping to hit the big time with one of the few remaining shows left on Broadway named Pretty Lady. One young, aspiring actress arrives from Allentown (Peggy Sawyer, played by Rachel Hafell) in time to miss her last chance to audition for a part in the show. One of the leads, Billy Lawlor (played by Bryan Thomas Hunt) tries to charm her into a date but she is too disappointed for that. As she walks off she literally bumps into the show’s director, Julian Marsh (played for the 10th time in his career by Patrick Ryan Sullivan). Peggy goes to lunch with some of the cast who ask her to show them her dance moves. Director Marsh arrives and announces one of the dancers had dropped out so Peggy gets hired.

Meanwhile, the lead actress selected for this role is a once-famous star, Dorothy Brock (played by Erika Amato), who is a prima donna with her wealthy, 10-gallon hat wearing beau, Abner Dillon ( played by Ron Wisniski, who played the same role in Riverside’s 2010 production of 42nd Street). Brock is incensed she must audition for this role and Dillon is incensed she must kiss one of the other performers. He happens to be financing this production so the kiss is replaced by a handshake.

Other plot twists abound, all worthy of song and dance that carry the show at a fast pace to its glorious conclusion, which even includes a continuing post-show sequence. The 30-member cast acts, sings and performs dance numbers with uncanny precision, especially the tap dancing sequences that will bring a smile and applause from even the most jaded theatregoer.

The orchestra is made up of fine, Broadway quality musicians, one of whom is the on stage, piano playing character, Oscar. Oscar is played by Steve Brady, who just this season showed us his acting chops portraying art critic Lionel Percy in the Waxlax Stage performance of Bakersfield Mist.

The 1980 show is based on a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie. The musical numbers are by Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren and include well known standards, “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “42nd Street” among others.

Staging is constantly in motion, reset for every scene, and everything we have come to expect from the pros at Riverside Theatre.

This show is a direct hit with an explosion of talent and a must-see for anyone with a pulse.

42nd Street performs through April 30 on Riverside Theatre’s Stark Stage with tickets a bargain starting at $45. They can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (772) 231-6990 or online at www.riversidetheatre.com.

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