The London theatre district is buzzing with musicals during these summer months. The West End is currently hosting stage productions including “Thriller” based on the songs of Michael Jackson, “Mamma Mia” the long running tribute to the greatest hits of Abba and “Tina: The Musical” based on the life and music of Tina Turner.
But the most spectacular of the current productions in this famous district of Central London is “42nd Street” that is running at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
This is city’s most historic theatre, and the current building, which is the fourth theatre built on this site, is over 200 years old.
The original London production of the Broadway musical opened at this same theatre in 1984 and played here for over four years. Catherine Zeta Jones who played the role of Peggy Sawyer in that production later became a huge film and TV star.
Even on a weekday night the house was full with an audience that included busloads of tourists eager to enjoy this new production of the iconic “42nd Street”.
The show doesn’t disappoint; the massive cast, spectacular stage sets, lighting and costumes, the dialogue is hilarious and light hearted, the orchestra a pure joy with great sings-a-long tunes.
The musical is based on a film of the same name that premiered in March 1933 four years into the Great Depression in the U.S when the 60 per cent of the country’s citizens were categorised as poor. Over nine million savings accounts had been wiped out as banks shut down.
The optimistic tone of the story and outstanding choreography made it one of the most profitable movies of that year as crowds flocked in to cinema halls to watch the film. It lifted the gloom against the background of the stock market crash of 1929 that left over 13 million people out of work and in economic hardship.
42nd Street tells the story of a struggling producer mounting an expensive musical show called the “Pretty Lady” amidst the dire financial and social environment. For the characters in the play, the show is their last change to lift themselves out of the dumps.
If the show doesn’t go on they are not just out of work, they will be destitute.
Set in both New York City’s 42nd Street Theatre and Philadelphia, the story unravels as a play-within-a-play, offering a glimpse into the behind the scenes drama of a stage production. Tom Lister who is famous for his role in the British TV soap “Emmerdale’ plays the role of the director Julian Marsh.
He is the impresario who has been in the wilderness and has a final shot to get back on top by mounting the Broadway extravaganza. Peggy Sawyer (played by Clare Halse) is an aspiring small town star that has just arrived in Broadway and gets a part among the chorus girls in the show. Her big break comes when the leading lady Dorothy Brock, played by the veteran actress, singer and songwriter Lulu, is injured during rehearsals.
The all-singing, high-kicking cast of more than 50 performers fill the magnificent Theatre Royal Drury stage with dazzling dance routines while a 20-piece orchestra plays classics like “With Plenty of Money and You”, “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Forty Second Street”.
It all makes for a glamorous spectacle with a performance lasting approximately two and a half hours and a 20-minute interval.
It is advisable to book tickets on the show’s website, which, depending on the day of the week, cost between 65 pounds and 95 pounds for the seats in the Stalls and Royal Circle in this historic theatre.