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42nd Street Dances into Durham!



Lamont Brown as Andy Lee (center in yellow) and Company in Audition
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

Growing up in New Jersey just a short drive from Manhattan it was common to see television commercials for popular Broadway shows when I was a kid. I have fond memories of watching clips of the dance numbers from the Tony Award winning 42nd Street on my old tube TV picking up the stations out of New York. I never did get the chance to see it growing up, but as luck would have it the traveling production is in town this week at the Durham Performing Arts Center running through Sunday, May 8th. I caught the show last night after a quick dinner at Bar Virgile and still have the catchy tunes stuck in my head.

Based on Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie adapted from a novel by Bradford Ropes, 42nd Street is a classic Broadway show filled with amazing tap-dance routines and a story dripping with nostalgia. Set during the throws of the Great Depression when Americans had to foster the old “can do” attitude to survive, big-named theater director Julian Marsh (played by Matthew J. Taylor) is trying to mount a comeback with his latest stage production.


The Company of 42nd Street in “Lullaby of Broadway”
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

The musical opens to the scene of aspiring dancers auditioning for Marsh’s “Pretty Lady” under the instruction of choreographer Andy Lee (played by Lamont Brown). Peggy sawyer (Caitlin Ehlinger) is a Broadway hopeful fresh off the train from Allentown Pennsylvania. She may have missed the audition but she soon gets an impromptu chance to impresses with here clever dance steps and earns herself a last minute spot in the show’s chorus.

Kaitlin Lawrence plays stage diva Dorothy Brock. She’s the star of “Pretty Lady” but only because her rich boyfriend is bankrolling the production. On opening night Dorothy breaks her ankle and Peggy is blamed and promptly fired. Realizing they will all be out of a job if the show does not go on,  the cast catch up to Peggy just moments before she gets on a train headed home and convince her to take over the lead role to a fantastic rendition of the classic “Lullaby of Broadway”.


Caitlin Ehlinger as Peggy Sawyer (center) and the Company of 42nd Street
(Photo by Chris Bennion)

Though nervous the show is a tremendous success all but ensuring Peggy will become a star. She hasn’t forgotten where she comes from though. Rather than going to the high society official opening party, the final act closes with Peggy instead opting to join her dancing friends at the chorus party instead.

42nd Street has all the glitz and glamour of Broadway days gone by. The skillful tap-dancing routines and flashy costumes coupled with the popular upbeat music directed by J. Michael Duff in the orchestra pit make for the highlight of the show.  This production will put a smile on your face and have you tapping your feet right down to the final number.

42nd Street continues through May 8th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information and to order tickets visit http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/42nd-street.


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