CENTERVILLE — CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s 42nd Street is an engaging experience directed by Kristin Pettingill Callor with stunning visuals, strong vocals and, of course, tap dancing.
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and subsequent motion picture, 42nd Street first premiered on Broadway in 1980. With music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, 42nd Street takes place during the height of the Great Depression and follows a cast and crew of a new Broadway musical, Pretty Lady. Leading the cast of Pretty Lady is Dorothy Brock (played by Cynthia Klumpp), a veteran actress, but director Julian Marsh (played by Brock Harris) worries that Dorothy’s skills do not meet the demands of the role. Alongside Dorothy is chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (played by Kaylee Wheeler), who is fresh off the train from Allentown, Pennsylvania, with hopes of achieving Broadway stardom. On opening night, an unfortunate accident leaves Dorothy unable to perform and Peggy soon finds herself thrust into the spotlight as Pretty Lady’s new leading lady.
Klumpp gave an outstanding performance as Dorothy, showcasing the character’s strength as a seasoned, confident actor but also as a vulnerable woman who is coming to terms with the fact that her career is past its peak. Klumpp brilliantly portrayed this dilemma, most notably during “Shadow Waltz” as she danced out of sync with all the confidence in the world. While there was room in Callor’s direction for Klumpp to further exaggerate the drama, wit, and vulnerabilities of Dorothy, she was a delight to watch on stage from start to finish.
Wheeler gave a noteworthy performance as the idealistic newcomer Peggy. Physically, Wheeler was perfect for this role. Her angelic, soft facial features combined with her ability to appear genuinely and naturally awestruck by the lights and sounds of Broadway allowed one to fully appreciate Peggy’s excitement. No doubt Wheeler’s shining moment was her performance of the title song, “42nd Street.” Wheeler’s vocals were beautiful and flawless, and the stage was hers to own.
Jessica Rampton provided expert musical direction with the best performance (unsurprisingly) being “Lullaby of Broadway.” Led by Harris’s impressive vocals, it was during this song that everyone on stage came alive and the energy in the room was palpable. Choreographer Bailee DeYoung’s contributions were evident immediately, with a fun and energetic tap routine at the top of the show. As the night progressed, however, the choreography began to feel redundant. It would have been nice to have a wider variety of dance steps to spotlight the talent of the ensemble. Regardless, the choreography was flawlessly executed and a delight to witness.
Technical director Derek Walden, set designer Truxton Moulton, and lighting designer Jordan Fowler created a feast for the eyes, with 42nd Street having some of the strongest technical elements I have seen at CenterPoint. This quality of work was consistent throughout, one example being “There’s a Sunny Side to Ev’ry Situation.” The set was reminiscent of the old game show Hollywood Squares, with each ensemble member sitting in their own square, which illuminated when it was their turn to sing. Another prominent detail was the silhouette dancers against a bold red light which may have reminded me of a certain musical that takes place in Illinois. Admittedly, there were minor issues with sound with one ensemble member’s microphone being significantly louder than the rest of the cast. Also, there seemed to be an attempt to add sounds mimicking the streets of New York during the Gypsy Tea Kettle scene, but they were too soft to decipher and instead sounded like whispers between audience members.
The work of costume designer Brianna Taylor and her crew was simply remarkable. The costumes were time-period appropriate, well-fitted for each actor and bright and colorful. The sheer volume of costumes throughout and how well they complimented each character’s personality was equally impressive. This was particularly true for Dorothy and Peggy. The audience first meets Peggy wearing a yellow dress accessorized by green gloves and beret. This youthful, almost innocent costume allowed me to appreciate how new Peggy was to the environment, especially when compared to the dramatic ensembles worn by Dorothy. Gracing the stage in a variety of costumes that were sparkly and feathery, Dorothy always presented as the diva she is in her oversized hat and robes with sleeves to the floor. Of course, no costume is complete without hair and makeup, and I admire wig/hair designer Shelly Swenson and make up consultant Kristen Alley for their attention to detail, which complimented the costume designs well.
CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s 42nd Street is a witty and heartwarming production about following your dreams and accepting your future. The play is a vivid reminder that “musical comedy are two of the most glorious words in the English language.”