42nd Street – Review – Leeds Grand Theatre
By Christine Goode, July 2023
5,6,7,8… Tap Step, Ball Change, Shuffle Hop Step, Wing, Step, Finish!
Set in the 1930s, 42nd Street is a big, bright and bold dance musical, telling the backstage story of the tough Broadway life that dancers, actors, producers and directors endure. Starting from the first audition to the final curtain, we follow the cast as they come across the trials and tribulations of show production, alongside life as an aspiring dancer and performer.
42nd Street is the ultimate backstage showbiz fairytale, where stage struck chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Nicole-Lily Basiden) becomes an overnight star, rescuing a show from ruin after the leading lady, Dorothy Brock (Samantha Womack), falls and breaks her ankle on opening night.
This is a show filled with stars. Four huge names, Les Dennis, Faye Tozer, Samantha Womack and Michael Praed – all stars in their own right – come together to create a spectacular stage production. Along with a very strong supporting cast, this is one of the best overall productions I have seen for a long time: classic musical theatre at its best, which has the entire audience beaming throughout.
The songs, too, are household names: ‘Shuffle Off To Buffalo’, ‘We’re In The Money’, ‘Lullaby Of Broadway’ and many more that any musical theatre enthusiast will know (especially from tap classes!). Effortless dance routines follow one after the other, stunningly created by Fred Astaire expert Bill Deamer, who captures perfectly the style of the day.
The quality of tap dance delivered is exquisite: the entire ensemble cast sounding as one as they flow through syncopated and double-time routines, showcased with ease thanks to their incredible stamina and precision.
Bert Barry (Les Dennis) and Maggie Jones (Faye Tozer) are the comedy duo of the piece, and their chemistry is perfection. Samantha Womack as Dorothy Brock brings glamour and presence with superb vocals as the faded leading lady.
Micahel Praed as Julian Marsh is charismatic as the director commanding the stage, but, also shows empathy to his young cast when they need him the most.
Nicole-Lily Basiden gives a stand out performance as Peggy Sawyer, and is captivating with her infectious smile. She has a superb dance technique as well as outstanding vocals, and I could not stop watching her. The ensemble cast, also on point, are slick and enthralling to watch.
The lush art deco set and costume design by Robert Jones is stunning, with glitz and glamour giving a rich and opulent feel to the era’s magnificent sequined costumes and decor. An additional proscenium arch lowered in along with clever lighting gives depth to the stage and enhances the ‘show within a show’.
Expect nothing less than non-stop fabulous tap routines, extravagant sets, and incredible vocals throughout this amazing show. Here is a true classic of Musical Theatre – and this production certainly had me, my guest (and tap teacher!) and hundreds of people singing and tapping in our seats right up to the very end, when we quite rightly gave a standing ovation.
I can imagine plenty of theatre-goers were inspired enough, when they got home, to dig out their old tap shoes and ‘Shuffle Off To Buffalo’ themselves.
42nd Street is at Leeds Grand until 29th July
Top Image: Johan Persson