From The Day Newspaper

The Ultimate Lullaby Of Broadway
Goodspeed '42nd Street' a glorious celebration of musical theater
  By Kristina Dorsey
  Published on 5/19/2009

Goodspeed's “42nd Street” doesn't start with a bang so much as an earth-shaking, showbiz pow.
It kicks off with a dance number so full of vibrant energy, full-out performances, and tapping and whirling that it seemed more like a blazing finale than an opening number.
Now, part of that first-impression flash is how “42nd Street” is structured and how Goodspeed choreographer Rick Conant decided to use most of the original Broadway choreography by Gower Champion for this number. But the Goodspeed crew also gooses it with pizzazz and tap-dance talent.
It'd be tough to maintain that level of vigor throughout a whole show, and things slow down for some exposition.
They have to gear up the plotline: Broadway producer desperate for a hit in the midst of the Great Depression stages a new musical. Young, fresh-faced dancer is hired for the chorus. The musical's star diva breaks an ankle, putting the show in jeopardy. But wait! Could the young dancer fill the diva's gilded shoes? Could she go out there a youngster and come back ... a star?
”42nd Street” plays all this straight. It's unapologetically unironic as it cheers showbiz dreams and embraces showbiz cliches. The show itself, and Goodspeed's production, have a definite old-fashioned feel - not musty, mind you, but traditional.
While the action bogs down a bit during the first-act dialogue, the second act rushes forth with waves of production numbers, including a zingy “42nd Street.” “Lullaby of Broadway” builds into a glorious, full-cast celebration of the power of musical theater.
”Shuffle Off to Buffalo” brings some kitschy cuteness to the proceedings, with a groom getting lost on a sleeper train, ending with the train rumbling off and strobe lights creating a very effective sense of a runaway locomotive.
As you can tell from those three titles, “42nd Street” is chockablock with sing-along tunes by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. The stage version that debuted in 1980 was inspired by the 1933 movie musical but added even more Warren-Dubin tunes.
Goodspeed's “42nd Street” is directed by Ray Roderick, and he and choreographer Conant are the same team behind the theater's 2007 “Singin' in the Rain.” They bring the same flair and respect for their source material here, with plenty of nods to Champion's work.
The production numbers, meanwhile, get creative blasts of color from costumes designed by David H. Lawrence.
In “Dames,” chorus girls parade through, pageant-like, in rainbow-hued gowns. In the iconic “We're in the Money” number, street urchins straight out of “Oliver” give way to chorines dressed down in what look like coin-covered bikinis.
As for the performers, Kristen Martin projects the right starry-eyed enthusiasm and steel-spined determination as overnight sensation Peggy Sawyer. She bears a ballerina's perfect posture, and her tap dancing looks so effortless, it seems that she's downright weightless.
Laurie Wells, as prima donna Dorothy Brock, steals her scenes with her spot-on recreation of the traits behind every great diva - a lot of brass and a bit of self-doubt.
Wells has an easy star quality about her, and her satiny singing voice ranks as the best in the cast, particularly on “About a Quarter to Nine.”
Now, I realize a musical never has to be bound by logic, but I did have a burning question about one plot point. In “42nd Street,” it's another chorus girl who suggests Peggy Sawyer take over the starring role when the diva has to drop out. Would a chorine really suggest that another dancer - and not, you know, herself - take center stage?
Ah, well, “42nd Street” is a showbiz fantasy, after all.
What: “42nd Street”
Where: Goodspeed Opera House, Route 82, East Haddam
When: Through July 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wed., 7:30 p.m. Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 3 and 8 p.m. Sat., and 2 p.m. Sun. Tickets: $27.50- $69.50  Contact: (860) 873-8668,