"You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star."
That famous line is from none other than the Broadway favorite "42nd Street," which opened last weekend at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island.
Director Casey Colgan's production of this musical comedy is fresh, energetic and spot on. It is filled with dancing, singing and one-liners that truly capture the spirit of musical comedy right down to a gnat's eyelash. It takes all the ins and outs of this backstage Broadway fable to a new level.
The show begins with a slow curtain rise, revealing what look and sound to be hundreds of tapping feet. So much fun. From there, it is non-stop entertainment that never lets up.
The original show, produced by David Merrick with direction and dances by Gower Champion, opened Aug. 25, 1980, on Broadway. The local production -- with book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dublin based on the novel by Bradford Ropes -- also features the original Broadway revival choreography of Randy Skinner, and the costume and sound design from Diana Griffin and Bobby Beck. Ginger M. James, assisted by Nikki Baldwin, saw to managing the stage. All was re-created and adapted by Kelli Barclay. Musical direction came from Bradley Vieth, with lighting and sets by Terry Cermak.
The leads and ensemble players offer imaginative scenes and entertaining action. As production numbers fly by, some of the most outstanding captured my attention in the first act. Look forward to "Shadow Waltz," "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me," "Getting Out of Town," "We're in the Money" and, obviously, "Forty-Second Street."
The second act of this show within a show is loaded with wonderfully colorful, lovely and boisterous moments, too. Anticipate "Lullaby of Broadway," "About a Quarter to Nine," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," and "Forty-Second Street: The Finale," which brought the audience to its feet in the show I attended.
The show begins with Peggy Sawyer (Gabrielle Ruiz), who has just arrived in New York from Allentown, Pa., to audition for a cast call of "Pretty Lady." The show is to be produced by Julian Marsh (Jeffrey Watkins) who, with Maggie Jones (Gail Cook Howell) and Bert Barry (Bill Bateman) and others, has a great deal riding on its successful outcome.
Peggy is met and variously encouraged and discouraged by Billy Lawlor (Nic Thompson), the leading tenor; Andy Lee ( Richard Riaz Yoder) chorographer and dance director; along with a number of chorines and chorus kids, to audition and join the troop in the preparation of "Pretty Lady."
Totally invested in the perfect outcome of the production is Dorothy Brock (Susan Powell), who will handle the lead, and who, as it turns out, is seeing (wink, wink) Abner Dillon (Paul TeBrake), a distracted Texas millionaire letch, who everyone is counting on to finance the new show.
The plot begins to bubble when the cast realizes how very talented and driven Peggy is, and the possible impact she may have on Julian, the director, and particularly our star, Dorothy, whom we now realize is not only a prima donna of the first order, but is probably past her prime.
Oh, and just to add another swath of color to the story, we must now introduce Pat Denning (Michael Santora), Dorothy's former partner and true affair of the heart. Sigh.
There is lots of action toward the end of the show when -- can you believe it -- Peggy, who has been given a chorus role in "Pretty Lady," accidentally causes Dorothy to break her ankle. Everybody tells Peggy she must go on as the lead or the show will close. You won't be surprised when I tell you that, in spite of everything, she not only does, but scores an enormous hit and becomes an overnight star.
Colgan has called upon his important artistic connections, lined up a great team of dancers, singers and actors, many familiar, some debuting and several who live right here in the Lowcountry. They deliver impressive performances as Colgan sees to the unfolding of this tuneful show with lots of personality.
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry.