Two very different West End productions hove into Scotland this week in terms of cinema viewings and how different were the experiences. 42nd Street closed its run back in January of this year and this was a chance to get up a close and personal view and what a delight it was. Set during the early 1930s depression era New York featuring Bonnie Langford as the aging, and most certainly past her best, Dorothy Brock as the “star” of an upcoming musical Pretty Lady under the direction of the fictional director Julian Marsh.
When the show’s star is forced to drop out of the production, Marsh calls on unknown chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Clare Halse), who takes to the stage a “youngster” and comes back a “star”. With a classic score of musical theatre standards including "We're in the Money", "Lullaby of Broadway", "42nd Street" and "About a Quarter to Nine", this heart-warming musical provides exceptional tap routines and classic comedy.
Looking back to simpler times may be considered a bit naff in today’s world but come on folks when a very large cast are dancing and tapping their collective hearts out on a stage with a huge overhead mirror displaying moves very clearly nodding in the direction of Busby Berkeley I would defy you not to be enthralled.
Clare Halse is delightfully wide-eyed as the chorus girl getting her break but it was her fancy footwork that captured this reviewer’s respect. Her flashing feet flicker and fly around the stage as the taps crack out at dizzying speed. Bonnie Langford finally gets to strut her stuff, matching her younger onstage rival step for step, kick for kick and tap for sensational tap. Truly marvellous to behold.
The male lead was played by Ashley Day as Billy Lawlor. He already looks like a 1940's heartthrob but his rich voice is equally beautiful and he was more than capable in the feet department as well.
Halse and Day's final extended dance-off in the climactic 42nd Street had me holding my breath. The entire stage becomes an illuminated staircase bedecked with a full cast in sequins tapping their hearts out. It is an explosion of pure, joyous nostalgia that also confirms why a show like this is needed right now.
Extraordinary for sure but ever so slightly disappointing in that we were not seeing it “live” which brings with it an atmosphere of involvement and communion completely missing inside a cinema.