Arts and Culture Editor
“42nd Street” at The Fulton Theatre is a musical theatre spectacle of the grandest proportions. This may seem like high praise for such a well-known show, but this particular production of this classic piece is particularly rousing. From the sheer athleticism and precision of Marc Robin’s choreography, the candy coated set design of Bruce Brockman and the glitter-filled vibrant costumes from Ryan J. Moller, this is classic musical theatre done at its finest.
Now while the production is fantastic, it is really the cast that bring this show to such soaring heights. Sarah Quinn Taylor is an utter joy as Peggy Sawyer (Sarah Quinn Taylor). The character from beginning to end is very naïve, but Taylor brings an endearing innocence to the character that is simply irresistible. Taylor’s dancing is also excellent, in the Act Two show-stopping “Forty Second-Street”, she is a marvel in this song as Peggy transforms into the star she was always meant to be. The naivety Taylor brings to this part makes the character’s star turn in this breathtaking number to be even more startlingly seductive. Taylor is just wonderful in this part.
Tom Galantich is also great fun as the serious and imposing Broadway director, Julian Marsh. This character is very much an archetypal theatre figure, but throughout Galantich adds humanity in his scenes with Taylor’s Peggy that brings some much needed heart to this cold man. This choice works particularly well in the later second act book scenes, as the audience gets a glimpse at the dreamer behind the visionary. Galantich also gets saddled with the more ridiculous and at times dated lines in Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book, but he carries them off with much style and panache. His performance is simply a joy to watch.
Nicolas Dromard is a consummate triple threat as the Broadway matinee idol, Billy Lawlor. With dashing good looks, a powerhouse voice and a classy swagger, Dromard creates a character that seems right out of a 1950s musical movie. He particularly brings fine support to the dazzling “Dames” production number. Another standout is Charis Leos as the song-writer of the show within a show, Sophisticated Ladies. Leos, a veteran of the Fulton stage, brings a welcome sense of humor and warmth to each of her roles. This one is no exception. Leading the catchy “Go into Your Dance” number, this role is a perfect showcase of Leos’s talents, as she mines great comedic moments even out of the most minute of moments.
Other standouts include Denise Whelan as the grand diva Dorothy Brock. While only featured in mainly Act One, Whelan truly relishes every moment on stage. She is absolutely delicious to watch, as she chews up the scenery as this fierce yet comedic delusional diva of the stage. Peter McClung also has great fun playing Dorothy Brock’s dimwit of a husband, Abner Dillon. His southern boisterous nature is a hysterical comedic clash with Whelan’s theatrical star of the stage.
Last, but certainly not least, the ensemble of this musical are simply extraordinary. Not only do they dance Marc Robin’s rousing and challenging choreography with reckless abandon, but they also bring bright individual characters to the piece. They are particularly strong in the rousing number, “We’re In The Money”. As they dance across Brockman’s colorfully vibrant set they reach a literal level of precision rarely seen on the Fulton stage. The melody of this particular number with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin is particularly rousing, but it is the ensemble that make this production numbers shine so brightly.
The cast is fantastic, but that would not be possible without an equally as strong creative team. Marc Robin’s direction is particularly inspired. All of the characters seem to exist in the same 1930’s dream world where even the slightest uplift inspires a tap dance. It is a world worth escaping to that audiences dive right in with. The set design by Bruce Brockman is very smart as his colorful flats add much pizzazz to the endlessly entertaining production numbers. He also in his design doesn’t ever over crowd the stage, leaving room for the dancers to showcase their craft.
The same can be said for Paul Black’s lighting. It is striking particularly in the finale “Forty- Second Street” sequence. Yet, even at its most vibrant, it never detracts from the exciting action onstage. Ryan J. Moller’s costumes on the other hand, are over the top in the best possible way. His looks particularly for the females are stylized from the beginning, but once the glitter filled dresses make their grand reveal in the Sophisticated Ladies sequence, the show really hits high gear. These gorgeous dresses in their lavishness simply stop the show and are worth the price of admission alone. From there, Moller’s gorgeous dresses and suits are simply a sight to see. They effortlessly evoke the old Hollywood of the 1930’s but also bring an element of camp that is particularly welcome for this 2018 mounting of this iconic musical. The band as led by Jonathan Leffever, is also particularly strong as they play Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s score with infectious flair. The creative elements of this production are truly one of a kind.
Unfortunately, the one spot this musical falls short is the slightly dated book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. From today’s standards, some of the lines particularly from the Julian Marsh director’s character reek of sexism, yet this is a musical where the story doesn’t particularly matter. Once the ensemble comes out in their colorful glitter suits and glittery gowns, all holes in the plot are forgiven. This is a piece that is a perfect example of rightful style over substance. The Fulton’s production of “42nd Street” with show-stopping dancing, a powerhouse cast and an outstanding creative design, make this golden age musical one not to be missed this holiday season.