Theater Review: “42nd Street”

The Company from Spreckels Theatre's production of "42nd Street."
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

Get out your tap shoes and your dreams of stardom (well, metaphorically anyway): “42nd Street” is back in town, that tap-happy show that will renew your faith in the triumph of good and the dreams of youth.

San Diego Musical Theatre presents the 1980 double Tony winner through June 12 at the Spreckels Theatre downtown. James Vasquez – a man who knows how to lace his tap shoes – directs.

Cast your mind back to 1933, when everybody was scrambling to survive the Depression and get back to work. Now consider starving artists of the dancer stripe and imagine their response to an announcement that casting is on for a new musical.

Hordes of them show up for an audition, and that’s where we find imperious director Julian Marsh (Robert J. Townsend) casting the show.

Based on the 1933 film starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, “42nd Street” isn’t remarkable for its story, a barebones one about an ingenue who takes over for the star. No, you’ll be in the theater for these fine dancers and their interpretations of Jill Gorrie’s energetic choreography – and for the memorable songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. San Diego Musical Theatre presents “42nd Street” through June 12 at the Spreckels Theatre.

Ingenue Peggy Sawyer (Ashley Ruth Jones) makes the near-fatal mistake of arriving late for the auditions. Fortunately, she’s spotted by juvenile lead Billy Lawlor (Gabriel Navarro), who takes up her cause and she ends up in the chorus.

Established Broadway star Dorothy Brock (Laura Dickinson) is expected to both attract customers and make the show possible: her Texas sugar daddy Abner Dillon (Lance Carter) is financing “Pretty Lady.” But she still has a thing for former Vaudeville partner Pat Denning (Ryan Fahey), and when he shows up, it could throw a monkey wrench into the show’s chances of success.

But never mind the plot. Just feast your eyes on show-stopping numbers like “Dames,” and listen to great songs like “Lullaby Of Broadway,” “You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me” ?-- and of course the title tune.

Jones Peggy is appealing as ingénue Peggy, and can she sing and dance! And she and Navarro (also a fine singing dancer) have great chemistry.

Townsend and Dickinson amusingly show egos to match their place in the pecking order.

Bets Malone, as Maggie, co-author of the show, and dance director Andi Lee (Katie Whalley Banville, in a part usually played by a man) demonstrate nicely how women just get the job done. Ryan Fahey and Lance Carter amuse as Dorothy’s old flame and current sugar daddy.

Kudos to conductor Don Le Master, whose 14-member orchestra adds significant professionalism to the show, and to costume coordinator Beth Connelly for the beautiful costumes.

Michael Von Hoffman and Kevin Anthenill are also to be congratulated for their fine lighting and sound designs.

If you’re looking for an amusing evening, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” with the cast of “42nd Street.” You won’t regret it.

The details

“42nd Street” plays through June 12, 2016 at the Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, downtown.

Thursday at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (858) 560-5740 or sdmt.org