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January 20, 2004 > 42nd Street

42nd Street

by Christopher Cobb

Director Sue Ellen Nelson breathes new life into old standards "We're in the Money" and "Lullaby of Broadway" in Stage One Theatre's production of "42nd Street."

Broadway mega-producer Julian Marsh (Dan Kapler) is near-broke because of the stock market crash, but puts all his remaining money into making the biggest musical in twenty years. Starring big name Dorothy Brock, the show will either bankrupt him or make a million bucks. But what happens when the star breaks her ankle? Can the show go on?

Enter newcomer Peggy Sawyer, fresh from the Midwest, with feet of gold and a lucky green scarf. But does she have what it takes to carry the show?

Jennifer Tice's take on waning superstar Dorothy Brock is ideal; her delivery like a good martini - dry and cold. Initially unhappy with being replaced, she later warms to Melisa DeSeguirant's Sawyer. Their interaction on all levels is compelling.

The real treat however is DeSeguirant. The high school senior has tangible star quality and proves it with every moment she's on her feet. Prospective colleges take note!

While some scene blocking feels 2-dimensional, director Nelson provides a vivid portrait of the genesis of a Broadway show - the rehearsals feel real, the surrounding drama entertains and the performances dazzle.

"42nd Street" is unique among musical comedies in that no typical love story pervades. Instead the show focuses on the love between a performer and her craft. And as the young Sawyer escalates from chorus girl to breakout ingˇnue, the leading men begin to matter less as the call of stardom beckons. Nelson's direction accomplishes this both directly and indirectly - DeSeguirant easily appears 15 years junior to the various male leads, but her talent proves she belongs among them.

Depression-era Broadway is a surreal and beautiful place - a world where the dissonance of tap shoes on the street is typical. However, this dissonance becomes something more when the exceptional dance ensemble coalesces - and the resulting tap numbers are impressive.

Choreographer Christina Lazo has not only assembled a troupe of highly talented dancers but also stayed true to artistic vision: her rendition of numbers like "Shadow Waltz" and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" allow fresh humor and ingenuity into admittedly dated material.

Costumes by Angela Lazear capture the era nicely. With the exception of a few errant cummerbunds, rapid-fire costume changes often occurred unnoticed.

Typical opening night issues - prolonged set changes and an under-rehearsed orchestra - generally work themselves out before the end of the run.

As a show, "42nd Street" is a rare event in community theatre and should not be missed. This production is no exception. 42nd street will run through January 31st. Performances are at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on January 25th.

Stage 1 Community Theatre
Newark Memorial High School
39375 Newark Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287

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