Wright State University supplies a breezy and joyful production of the tuneful tap dance extravaganza “42nd Street,” Michael Stewart, Mark Bramble, Harry Warren and Al Dublin’s hokey yet engaging Depression-era love letter to musical theater based on the 1933 film of the same name.
Much of the success of this highly entertaining showcase, attractively designed by costumer D. Bartlett Blair and scenic artist Tamara L. Honesty, stems from the indelible influence of choreographer Rick Conant, who has staged numerous productions of “42nd Street” across the country and internationally specifically recreating the original choreography of the legendary Gower Champion (“Bye Bye Birdie,” “Hello, Dolly!”). From the rousing tap frenzy of the opening “Audition” and the circular fluidity of “Getting Out of Town” to the cheery exuberance of “We’re In the Money” and the carefree flair of “Lullaby of Broadway,” Conant winningly upholds Champion’s legacy without embellishment. He also seamlessly shares directing credit with Joe Deer, who astutely chose to produce the original 1980 script which is tighter and more succinct than the 2001 revival extraneously equipped with additional scenes/songs.
Conant and Deer’s wonderfully spirited cast is impressively headlined by amiable triple threat Alyssa Hostetler who was born to play Peggy Sawyer, the unassuming hoofer from Allentown, PA who becomes the saving grace of the Broadway-bound musical comedy “Pretty Lady.” Hostetler’s humility and naietve are pleasant attributes as Peggy faces her share of adversity, but her particularly fantastic tap abilities is a hallmark of the opening scene and remains a knockout. Valerie Reaper’s beautiful vocals add to the enjoyment of her deliciously biting yet vulnerable portrayal of aging diva Dorothy Brock. Reaper’s renditions of “Shadow Waltz” and “I Know Now” are as lovely as “About a Quarter to Nine” which she shares with Hostetler. Jason Collins, a firm baritone, is a natural fit as the demanding producer-director Julian Marsh, but he occasionally flubbed his dialogue at the performance attended which lessened Julian’s self-assured persona.
Further, terrific tenor Zach Cossman has slight difficulty balancing the charm and vanity within “Pretty Lady” leading man Billy Lawlor, but he is certainly smooth and debonair while leading the elegant “Dames” and winningly shares the spotlight with Hostetler in a captivating tap sequence during the title number. Hilary Fingerman and Joey Monda are naturally comedic and likable as Maggie Jones and Bert Barry, co-writers of “Pretty Lady.” Alex Sunderhaus, Darien Crago and Sarah Agar are respectively animated, endearing and vivacious as chorines Anytime Annie, Phyllis and Lorraine. Sunderhaus notably joins Monda for a very cute and playful rendition of “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” Ian Blanco truly shines in “Audition” as choreographer Andy Lee. Alex Horton (Abner Dillon), Riley Able (Pat Denning) and Blaine Boyd (Mac) are solid in additional supporting roles. Musical director Rick Church leads an outstanding orchestra.
If you’re looking for an upbeat escape featuring some of the finest dancing seen on any stage this season, don’t hesitate to buy a ticket to “42nd Street.”
42nd Street, which opened Thursday, May 12, continues through Sunday, May 29 in the Festival Playhouse Stein Auditorium of the Creative Arts Center at Wright State University, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy., Fairborn. Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m. (May 18 only), Thursday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Act One: 70 minutes; Act Two: 45 minutes. Tickets are $17-$19. For tickets or more information, call (937) 775-2500.