Head on over to 42nd street

42nd Street

If you like a show that tells an original, clever and thought-provoking story, then don’t go to see Jonathan Church’sbrand-new production of 42nd Street at the Bristol Hippodrome. The plot is paper thin and as predictable as they come: It’s 1933 and Peggy Sawyer, a penniless young dancer,arrives in New York looking for a part in the chorus line of a Broadway Show, “Pretty Lady”. Not only does she succeed in achieving this, but when the star of the show, Dorothy Brock, breaks her ankle, Peggy steps in, learns all the songs and dances in just 36 hours and brings down the house with her first ever stage performance.

That said, the plot really has very little to do with anything and is really just an excuse to bring us a succession of entertaining songs and the most amazing dance routines. Well known numbers include, 42nd Street“, “We’re In The Money“, “Lullaby of Broadway“, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and the show ischoreographed and designed by Olivier Award winners Bill Deamer and Rob Jones.

Sam Lips who plays Pretty Lady’s male lead, Billy Lawlor, has a fabulous tenor voice which is showcased several times, but of course, the star of the show is the delightful Nicole-Lily Baisden who plays Peggy. The sheer number of her dance routines is staggering and she performs each one flawlessly without ever losing her infectious smile for a moment. She is simply outstanding and seemed to relish the well-deserved standing ovation from the Hippodrome audience.

The programme rather unfairly gives top billing to the four most famous performers, who will be familiar to most. Samantha Womack plays a passable Dorothy Brock and Michael Praed (who those of a certain age will always remember as “Robin of Sherwood”) shows that he can sing as well as act in the role of Julian Marsh, Pretty Lady’s director. Les Dennis is well cast in the role of Bert Barry, although it feels like the part is too small to allow him to really get into his comedic stride. The complete revelation is Faye Tozer, formerly of the band “Steps”, who plays Maggie Jones. She is thoroughly endearing and seems utterly at home with some demanding choreography as well as singing and acting impressively AND producing an exceptionally convincing NYC accent.

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that this show belongs to those who Peggy often refers to as “the kids”. These talented young performers sing well but their tap dancing is outrageously impressive! Their energy and precision are incredible and the audience can’t fail to be in awe of their skill.

Special mention must also go to the clever set design and stunning costumes, both of which convey the sparkle and magic of 1930’s Broadway so magnificently. The final section of the song “Dames” was so beautiful that it elicited audible gasps from the crowd.

It would be hard not to feel inspired by this uplifting, funnyand visually spectacular show. Catch it at the Bristol Hippodrome before Saturday 5th August. 

Just don’t expect too much of a story!

B Coulter