Paramount's '42nd Street' a dance-filled delight
"Musical comedy," declares blustery Broadway director Julian Marsh in "42nd Street," are "the most glorious words in the English language."
And glorious might just be the perfect way to describe Paramount Theatre's revival of the Tony Award-winning "42nd Street" -- a tap-dance-filled delight that wows from its high-octane opening number to its glamorous finale.
Based on Bradford Ropes' novel and the 1933 Busby Berkeley film, "42nd Street" is an old-fashioned confection, chock-full of familiar plot tropes and upbeat songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. But this sunny tale proves old-fashioned in the best sense of the word.
The show opens with some highly impressive tap work at an audition for a new Broadway musical. Hardened Broadway veteran Julian Marsh (Larry Adams) badly needs a hit and hopes the splashy "Pretty Lady" will put him back on top. He'll do whatever it takes to keep the production on track, even calling in thugs to send a message to those who cross him.
Wide-eyed Peggy Sawyer (Laura Savage), meanwhile, arrives in Depression-era New York from Pennsylvania to pursue her dreams on Broadway. She attracts the attention of handsome hoofer Billy Lawlor (Tyler Hanes) and her dancing wins over Marsh to get her a spot in the chorus line.
As a triple threat who's young and pretty to boot, however, Peggy unsettles high-maintenance leading lady Dorothy Brock (Catherine Lord), whose star status is key to guaranteeing the show gets the financial support of wealthy, smitten Abner Dillon (Roger Mueller).
Then, an ill-timed fall puts the show's future in doubt.
Will Peggy's dreams be dashed?
Will the dancers go from chorus line to bread line?
Will the show -- gasp! -- go on?
Cliched? Sure, but it all works thanks to a top-notch team headed by director Rachel Rockwell and music director Doug Peck.
The show-within-a-show structure allows for an easy transition to some of the sillier dance numbers. But it's almost impossible to resist numbers like "We're in the Money," complete with oversized coins and costumes so covered in baubles and bangles that they're nearly blinding.
Theresa Ham's costume design, in fact, dazzles throughout, as does Kevin Depinet's staging. And Tammy Mader's choreography is a marvel, featuring one thunderously fun tap number after another.
As Peggy, Savage is every bit the triple threat of her character. She exudes a genuine sweetness and an infectious smile that keeps Peggy's naiveté from becoming cloying. Adams and Lord, meanwhile, bring depth and nuance to characters that could easily have been one-dimensional in lesser hands; Lord's rendition of "About a Quarter to Nine" is especially touching. And Hanes is a comic charmer as leading-man Billy.
Together with an impressive supporting cast, they deliver rousing renditions of song after song, from the titular tune to the key "Lullaby of Broadway."
"42nd Street"★ ★ ★ ★
Location: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com
Showtimes: 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday; through Feb. 9
Running time: About 2½ hours with intermission
Tickets: $36.90 to $49.90
Parking: Street and parking garages
Rating: For general audiences