42nd Street

Based on book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble; Music by Harry Warren; Lyrics by Al Dublin
Sunderland Empire and touring

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This revival is a razzle-dazzler of a toe-tapping show. The enduring rags-to-riches musical is a classic crowd-pleaser - and admittedly, a little cheesy - but for all that, has the feel of fresh paint.

The show, based on the 1933 film of the same name, and dating from the Wall Street Crash years was a morale-booster at the time. And today, it still engenders the same feelings - a fun, feel-good show-stopper packed with knock-out song and dance routines.

The timeless tale of small-town Peggy Sawyer's rise from chorine to overnight success as Broadway star is a formula still very much in vogue. Cue the poularity of today's talent-spotting shows like the search for Joseph in Any Dream Will Do and How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?.

The show opens with a dazzling tap number, Audition, and is a chance for the large, hugely talented ensemble to show us what they're made of. They do not disappoint.

Peggy, played by Jessica Punch, is wonderfully fresh-faced and naïve. She can sing and, boy, can she dance - and has bucket-loads of charm. Dave Willetts as Julian Marsh, instead of the billed Paul Nicholas, is a real pro. A veteran of the musicals scene, he is commanding and believable.

Ashley Nottingham, as Billy Lawlor was a little drowned out by the orchestra at times - but he puts on the style in the dance routines. And what a dazzling smile! Double act Graham Hoadly as Bert and Shirley Jameson as Maggie are a scream. They seem to have a genuine rapport and steal the show in their scenes.

And those songs From We're in the Money and Keep Young and Beautiful to the stunning title number, danced euphorically down that iconic flight of steps. Now that's entertainment!

And the costumes, too, were a delight - skirt suits for the ladies, nipped in at the waist, and double-breasted suits and preppy tank-tops and sweaters for the chaps.

The packed audience whooped it all up, joining in with the finale with their own toe-tapping and hand-clapping contribution.

Kevin Catchpole reviewed this production, with Stephen McGann in the leading role, at the Mayflower, Southampton

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci

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