Like big musicals, tap numbers, and glitz? Get ready to love Moonlight’s 42nd Street, playing through September 2.
With book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble and music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, 42nd Street has been a mainstay over the years, since winning Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography in 1980. Based on the 1933 film of the same name, the production follows the arrival of ingenue Peggy Sawyer on scene to Broadway as the industry recovers from the Great Depression. Peggy, who has recently relocated from Allentown, Pennsylvania, is eager for the opportunity to blaze a trail and to make her mark… but also devastatingly terrified to open the stage door. Luckily, her arrival coincides with the writing and launch of a new, large-scale musical production, Pretty Lady, which just so happens to have a single chorus girl spot available. The talented and charming performer catches the eye of director Julian Marsh, but even her skill and personality aren’t enough to protect her from the ire of Dorothy Brock, a prima donna who has landed the lead role thanks to her association with investor boyfriend Abner. Dorothy is jealous that the young actress’ fainting spell in rehearsal has led to a possible romantic assignation with Pat Denning; after all, Pat has secretly been Dorothy’s beau going on 10 years. But when the diva suffers a tragic accident and there is only one girl who can save the production, two questions arise: can and will she?
Under the choreography and direction of DJ Gray with music direction by Dr. Randi Rudolph, Moonlight has assembled an impressive cast for this newest offering. At its helm is triple threat Emma Nossal as Peggy. Nossal is everything you would hope for; her characterization is sweet, fresh, and naive but eager to please, and her Peggy is oh-so-talented. Opposite Nossal, playing director Julian Marsh, is Patrick Cummings. Cummings carries his role’s power and influence with authority, drawing the eye each time that he is on stage, as does the young Pretty Lady lead Billy Lawlor, played by Ian Black, who is charismatic and delightful. Likewise, Bets Malone and Jamie Torcellini are perfect for the character roles of co-authors Maggie Jones and Bert Berry, finding all of the laughs and exploiting them easily while tackling the vocal parts with finesse.
These performers and show-in-show choreographer Andy Lee (E.Y. Washington) lead a dance ensemble that is doing something truly special in the hands of director/production choreographer Gray. Their captivating, athletic numbers are outstanding and, quite simply, far more challenging than the talented ensemble makes them look. It is a joy to behold. Standout numbers include “Go Into Your Dance,” “We’re In the Money,” and of course “42nd Street.”
The large cast includes Tracy Lore (Dorothy Brock), Johnny Fletcher (Pat Denning), Greg Nicholas (Abner Dillon), Shannon Gerrity (Mac/Ensemble), Ellie Barrett Harvey (Annie), Emily Dauwalder (Lorraine/Ensemble), ensemble members Alyssa Anne Austin, Eric Badique, Adam Blanchard, Drew Bradford, Jake Bradford, Johnisa Breault, Anissa Briggs, Wes Damerson, Deborah Fauerbach, Colby Hamann, Jamaelya, Karina Johnson, Fisher Kaake, Zoë Marín-Larson, Katie Marshall, Marisa Moenho, Ryan Perry Marks, Trevor Rex, Holly Robertson, Samantha Roper, Noelle Roth, Grace Simmons, Anthony Vacio, and Taylor Ward, and swings Shelby Monson and Andy Ben Reynolds. The show also features a live 14-piece band playing the challenging book, who will doubtless continue to mesh more seamlessly as the run continues.
In this iteration, light schemes (Ryan Marsh), sound design (Jim Zadai), and costumes (by 3-D Theatricals, coordinated by Heather Megill) are well matched to the production’s glamour and vibrancy. Of particular note are the comedic and larger-than-life “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and the moodiness of the “42nd Street” ballet sequence, each of which featured some very specific stylistic choices to create their sequential vibes. The marriage of these various components feels very intentional and highlights the production dance numbers effectively.
All in all? Prepare to be enchanted by this production… as Julian Marsh says, “you’re on your way to glory,” Moonlight.
42nd Street runs through September 2.
Read the program.