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42nd Street (Chichester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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“Musical comedy - two of the most glorious words in the English language”, says harassed Broadway show director Julian Marsh. And 42nd Street is certainly a fine example of the genre. This 1980 musical based on the 1934 film, uses several Warren and Dubin songs from other films of the period.

In truth, this is one of the slightest of musical shows; the plot is wafer thin - even by the standards of Broadway musicals - and although there are some sparkling one-liners, some of them get a bit lost.

But who cares? This is a show that stands and falls by its musical numbers and succeeds triumphantly. Right from the frantic tap number at the start of the show, to the finale of the title song, the cast delivers in spades. Director Paul Kerryson doesn't let the pace slip for a second and there's some fantastic choreography. Perhaps the hardest working people involved are the costume makers - there are a dizzying number of changes in the show.

Kathryn Evans delivers gloriously as the ageing star, only kept in the show to keep her sugar-daddy sweet, and is clearly the standout singer - it’s a sure-footed performance. Tim Flavin doesn't quite capture the manic intensity of the Broadway director driven on by his financial losses, meaning it's hard to believe in him as the tyrant of the rehearsal room. But as Peggy Sawyer, Lauren Hall certainly captures the gaucheness of the youngster who becomes a star; she’s a talented dancer too.

There's also a gloriously sparkling performance from a previous Chichester favourite, Louise Plowright as writer Maggie Jones. But we certainly shouldn't forget the hard working chorus; more than most shows, this is one that has the chorus at the heart of everything - after all, it centres on a girl comes out of the chorus to emerge as a star.

This is glorious, exuberant, life-affirming evening out, one that makes you want to tap your feet and sing out. If 42nd Street was the show that cheered up America in the Great Depression, it can certainly be the show that puts a smile on the lips of a broken Britain.

- Maxwell Cooter


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