Long Island Advance - May 22, 2014
BY LINDA LEUZZI
In 2001, the cast for the revival of “42nd Street” was filmed leaving the Ford Theatre, tapping in the subway and into Radio City on 6th Avenue, creating a spectacular Tony Award opening number that’s still a hit on YouTube.
“The subway stuff was done at 3 a.m. and we had an empty car,” said Randy Skinner, the renowned choreographer for the musical’s Tony Award-winning best musical revival and director/choreographer of the Gateway show with Mary Giattino that opened this week. “We started filming at 11:30 p.m. and wrapped up at 4 a.m. The opening number, though, where the dancers tap into Radio City, was live.”
While South Country Road won’t witness a similar sensation, Gateway’s production is basically the same show Skinner helped create on Broadway in 2001. “My whole influence was movies,” he said. “My parents took me when I was young. And that’s what I try to create on stage, movie dancing.”
And that he does, with an assist by Mary Giattino-Styles. But here’s the big question along the way. Can Miss Allentown save the show?
Shannon O’Bryan plays Peggy Sawyer, the nice girl who has talent but doesn’t realize her potential until she becomes part of the cast of “Pretty Lady.” In her gawky embarrassment, she smashes into director Julian Marsh (James Lloyd Reynolds) during auditions. It’s the Depression; Marsh needs a hit, Peggy needs a job.
During a lunch with the girls in the cast, with dancing waiters, Peggy gets drawn into “Go Into Your Dance.” O’Bryan is a joy to watch; her footwork is flawless and euphoric and her clear soprano, whether she’s tapping or singing, sails out strong. Suddenly she’s dancing with the musical’s choreographer Andy Lee, played by Daniel Self, and Peggy’s in.
Catherine Lefrere as theater diva Dorothy Brock, who’s brought in as the star of the show, won’t audition, wants a limo, and please, add another zero to the paycheck. Lefrere pitches a great balance of comedic ‘this one needs a smack’ and vulnerability.
While Reynolds, as director, doesn’t dance, his Julian Marsh role is a major one. He’s brusque with a smoldering sexiness, worried about his musical because if it fails, he’s ruined. He’s attracted to Peggy, but only becomes aware of his feelings when he gets her in the clinch demonstrating a love scene. Oh my. He has a great voice and his “42nd Street” rendition is powerful.
The happy aspects of this musical are heightened by the fun in its production scenes. That includes “The Shadow Waltz,” with Brock and the cast in an imaginative silhouette backdrop, and “We’re in the Money,” with dancing dimes and girls and guys in costumes with gold “change.” “Be Young and Beautiful” is an homage to Busby Berkley and his geometric dancing patterns and to the glamorous movies of the 1930s. The girls strut in sumptuous, lush creations with feathers, spangles and furs. The men are in tails and twirl canes. Amy Van Norstrand, who plays Ann Reilly, is adorable in the “Shuffle off to Buffalo” number that recreates the Pullman rail cars, where travelers slept in bunk beds with curtains for privacy.
The cast had to pull off an iconic musical in a short amount of time, dancing almost nonstop with quick costume changes and they performed their intricate numbers with flawless precision.
When Brock breaks her ankle, it’s up to Peggy to save the show. She has 33 hours to learn 25 pages, six songs and the dance numbers.
We’ll keep the secret. But this musical is a throwback to when entertainment, while hard work, emulated fun, glamour and dance numbers that make you want to jump on stage and join the kids in the cast.
Read the original article at: http://www.longislandadvance.net/articles/2014/05/22/Peggy-and-the-kids-are-grand-grand-grand
NYTheatreGuide.com - May 25, 2014
BY KIRSTEN WEYER
The Gateway Playhouse this past week opened their 65th season with 42nd Street . Randy Skinner, who received a Tony Award nomination for the 2001 Broadway revival of 42nd Street, has brought his direction and choreography to Gateway’s production. Full of intricate tap sequences, impressive dance numbers, and incredible singing, 42nd Street is a toe-tapping good time.
As the curtain rises, we find ourselves in New York City in 1933 at the auditions of a new Broadway Show. Pretty Lady will be directed by the biggest name in romantic comedy history, Julian Marsh (James Lloyd Reynolds). Forced to give the lead to aging star Dorothy Brock (Catherine Lefrere) in order to receive funding from her wealthy, cowboy boyfriend Abner Dillon (Seth Lerner), Marsh hires talented newcomer Peggy Sawyer (Shannon O’Bryan) as a chorus girl. However, Brock, who is more full of her own ego than talent, doesn’t actually care about Dillon, but is really in love with her old friend Pat Denning (Andy Redeker). When disaster strikes Brock on opening night, it is up to Sawyer to step in and save the show. Dealing with grueling rehearsals, flirtatious advances from cast member Billy Lawlor (Drew Humphrey), and her growing attraction to Marsh, Sawyer somehow manages to give the performance of a lifetime, and rocket herself to stardom. A classic, feel-good, rags to riches story, with plenty of comedy, romance, and music along the way.
From an entrancing dance in silhouette, to the rousing tap finale, the dancing and choreography of 42nd Street was nothing short of incredible. The talent of choreographers Randy Skinner and Mary Giattino-Styles, and the entire cast they worked with, was clearly evident throughout the performance. The synchronicity and timing were flawless, and the intricate footwork appeared to flow effortlessly out of the dancers. They were accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by Jonathan Parks. The wonderful, energetic music coursed throughout the theater, until you felt as if you were immersed in, and surrounded by the notes from all angles. All pieces, from the ever popular “Lullaby of Broadway,” and namesake “42nd Street,” to the fillers between the scenes, were masterfully played.
The costuming provided by Costume World Theatrical Division, was absolutely dazzling. Excellent historically accurate pieces were abundant, with rehearsal clothes, everyday outfits, and dozens of sequined pieces for Pretty Lady’s numbers. Hundreds of costumes were incorporated, and the myriad of quick changes was mind-boggling. While the set was fairly sparse with minimal props, a few backdrops, and a handful of rolling set pieces, scenic designer Kelly Latta deserves commendation for achieving the correct “feel” of the scenes. Most of the action takes place either on stage or backstage of a theater, and her design lends authenticity to the play while letting the dancers become the focal point of the action.
Triple threats abound in this uber-talented cast. Shannon O’Bryan reprises her role of Peggy Sawyer, and her experience shines through with the ease in which she performs. James Lloyd Reyolds was fantastic as Julian Marsh, with perfect characterization and a pleasant, smooth voice. The writers and co-producers of Pretty Lady, Bert and Maggie, were played by Steve Luker and Kathryn Kendall. They portrayed their roles with great facial expressions, and much appreciated comedic timing. Both Drew Humphrey as Billy Lawlor, and Daniel J. Self as choreographer Andy Lee, performed intricate dance numbers with incredible ease, and pleasing voices. Seth Lerner’s interpretation of simple, countryman Abner Dillon, and Andy Redeker’s depiction of Pat Denning’s unceasing devotion to the undeserving Brock, were endearing. Catherine Lefrere brought poise and a rich vocal timbre to her portrayal of Dorothy Brock. Sawyer’s three friends in the chorus were Ann Reilly, played by Amy Van Norstrand; Lorraine Flemming, portrayed by Elish Conlon; and Phyllis Dale, performed by Kelly Skidmore. They brought youth, beauty, and vivacity to the performance, along with the occasional stratospheric note.
Brimming with comedy, drama and romantic misunderstandings even Shakespeare would approve, 42nd Street is not to be missed. The heartfelt singing and energetic dancing will keep all who attend spell-bound and entertained guaranteed.
Read the original article at: http://nytheatreguide.com/2014/05/theatre-review-42nd-street-at-gateway-playhouse/
Newsday - May 25, 2014
BY STEVE PARKS
WARNING: If you don't tolerate tap dance, this show, in Twitter-speak, is NOT 4U.
The original "42nd Street," which debuted on Broadway in pre-Internet 1980 with producer David Merrick's announcement that director-choreographer Gower Champion had died, makes a legacy statement in the summer- season opener at Gateway Playhouse. Randy Skinner, Champion's former protégé/assistant, directs "42nd Street" at Bellport with the choreography he created for the 2001 Broadway revival. Aside from that four-year run and subsequent national tours, his new numbers have not been performed in regional theater until now.
Skinner's troupe literally taps into the 1933 movie musical's Busby Berkeley roots with corny delight. Never mind there's a Depression going on.
Julian Marsh, a Broadway legend played with mature restraint by James Lloyd Reynolds, is as much in need of a hit as the hoofers he's auditioning for his musical, "Pretty Lady." He lost a fortune in the stock market crash of '29. So he's pinned his hopes on a bankable star, Dorothy Brock, who can't dance a lick but brings a sugar daddy into the financial equation. Enter Peggy Sawyer, a greenhorn from Allentown who lands a part in the chorus when Marsh catches her dancing in the street. Even more improbably, Peggy gets her big break when the star, yes, breaks a leg.
Giddy dancing sustains the fantasy. Shannon O'Bryan, who's played Peggy Sawyer on Broadway and national tours, dances as if she owns the role, ably partnered with Drew Humphrey. While O'Bryan is charming enough in the title number, her feet speak louder than her voice. Catherine LeFrere as Dorothy pulls off the neat trick of being just so-so on her "Pretty Lady" numbers. She's meant to be uninspired. But her dressing-room torch song, "I Only Have Eyes for You," gives us reason to believe she's a star.
Still, dance trumps song in "42nd Street." Skinner's contributions are most evident in "Keep Young and Beautiful," when two of the cast's seniors, Kathryn Kendall and Steve Luker, kick up their heels in a mash-up with "Dames," giving Act I a showstopper to rival "We're in the Money."
Skinner extends "42nd Street's" Act II reprise with his signature hands-up choreography that borders on too much of a good thing. He adds an encore, which interrupted the opening-night standing ovation. Music director Jonathan Parks keeps the percussive beat, while Kelly Latta's bright-lights set frames those flashing feet.
Read the original article (subscription required) at: http://long-island.newsday.com/things-to-do/theater/42nd-street-review-1.8223990
BroadwayWorld.com - May 28, 2014
BY MELISSA GIORDANO
WARNING: If you don't tolerate tap dance, this show, in Twitter-speak, is NOT 4U.
You will find it truly refreshing to attend Gateway Theatre's beautiful incarnation of the Tony winning musical 42nd Street. I know what you're thinking... 42nd Street is done frequently... and you are correct. However, the right cast and a top notch director - Broadway's Randy Skinner who had a hand in the original Broadway production as well as the 2001 Broadway revival - breathes new life into a theatre staple.
While Mr. Skinner brilliantly leads this production, his colleague from Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Mary Giattino-Styles, has delightfully adapted his choreography from the 2001 Broadway revival for the Gateway stage. Big tap numbers abound to familiar songs in Harry Warren and Al Dubin's score including "We're in the Money", "Lullaby of Broadway", as well as the show's title number.
The tale, based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and the succeeding 1933 film, follows naïve, fresh-off-the-bus actress Peggy Sawyer looking to make it big on The Great White Way. Peggy is superbly portrayed by Shannon O'Bryan (Broadway: Irving Berlin's White Christmas). A strong voice and effortless dancing make Ms. O'Bryan a natural for the role.
Another highlight among the large, talented cast is Drew Humphrey (Broadway: Irving Berlin's White Christmas) who charmingly portrays Billy Lawlor. Billy is an up-and-coming actor as well and takes a liking to Peggy guiding her as she tries to break into the business.
Also a favorite is Kathryn Kendall who comically portrays sassy Maggie Janes, one the producers on the show Peggy is trying to get into. She has great chemistry with Steve Luker (Broadway: 42nd Street) who portrays co-producer Bert. These two brought many laughs from the audience. This is in addition to a wonderful performance by Catherine Lefrere who portrays past-her-prime diva Dorothy Brock. Ms. Lefrere's no-nonsense saunter speaks volumes and her voice sang the score beautifully.
The whole cast is truly outstanding as is the creative team. Kelly Latta's set, albeit minimal, is divinely highlighted by Marcia Madeira's lighting. Seeing a live orchestra was also a treat as well. Led fantastically by Jonathan Parks, the great band also included Michael Kendrot, Mark Gatz, Ron Fox, Charlie Clausen, Gary Jones, Catherine O'Malley, and Terrence Bates.
And so, the Gateway Theatre certainly has a hit on their hands with 42nd Street. Dare I say that this might be one of the must-sees of the season. A wonderful cast, fantastic director, and a classic score make for a wonderful night of theatre.
Read the original article at: http://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Reviews-The-Gateways-42ND-STREET-20140528#.U4dcInJdX8k
Dan's Papers - May 29, 2014
BY GENEVIEVE HORSBURGH
The dancing will thrill you; the lyrics will make you smile and the music will stay with you long after the final curtain call. With a tap and a kick, the Gateway Playhouse opens its 65th season with the uplifting and entertaining 42nd Street.
Led by an impressive team of choreographers, including three-time Tony award nominee Randy Skinner, this revival of 42nd Street is full of high-energy dance numbers that will leave you breathless.
42nd Street is the story of Peggy Sawyer, a girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania who comes to Broadway in 1933 with big dreams and even bigger talent. Shannon O’Bryan, reprising this role from the national tour of 42nd Street, plays Peggy, who is soft spoken and shy, but knows she can sing and dance her heart out on stage. I found O’Bryan to be incredibly convincing as the shy Peggy. Her voice is sweet and lyrical, full of joy, and her feet—oh, those dancing feet!
“Young and Healthy” is one of the first numbers that really get you in the mood for some dancing, with Peggy and Billy Lawlor—played by the adorable Drew Humphrey—and features some new choreography from Skinner. It’s fun, it’s upbeat and the dancers do the routine justice. The playful chemistry between Peggy and Billy is intriguing and so much fun to watch—I found myself tapping my feet along to the infectious beat.
Although Peggy has missed auditions for Pretty Lady, the next big show by Broadway legend Julian Marsh, a lucky turn of events has the show in need of one more chorus girl, and Peggy finds herself in the right place at the right time—and in the show. Julian Marsh—played by the enigmatic James Lloyd Reynolds—needs this show to save his career.
Some of my favorite numbers in the first act include “Go Into Your Dance,” “Dames” and “We’re in the Money,” as the talented cast danced their way into my heart—I could feel their energy and love for the dance vibrating through the air.
The lead in Marsh’s Pretty Lady, Dorothy Brock, is nothing short of a diva. Played by Catherine LeFrere, who has a deep, sultry voice, a killer figure and a fierce stage presence, Brock hides her insecurities behind sarcasm and pettiness and denies herself true love for the love of money and fame. It isn’t until an accident on the opening night of Pretty Lady that leaves Brock with a broken ankle, unable to preform, that she realizes the error of her ways.
The second act is full of excitement and drama. The Pretty Lady cast urges Julian not to close the show and instead have Peggy play the lead. Marsh agrees and rushes to the train station to stop the homeward–bound Peggy and beg her to rejoin the cast as his leading lady. As the sweet chords of “Lullaby of Broadway” begin, prepare to be spellbound as Julian leads the cast into this awe-inspiring routine.
Ultimately, Peggy agrees and the show goes on in spectacular fashion. Pretty Lady opens on Broadway with Peggy as the lead, and even Dorothy Brock can’t help but respect the talented young girl from Allentown. The namesake scene “42nd Street” is everything you could want from a Broadway performance and then some. The glitz, the glamour, the music and the perfectly syncronized dancing makes the number truly unforgettable, and you will certainly find yourself humming this tune for days to come.
The cast and crew of Gateway’s 42nd Street should be incredibly proud. A show this monumental is only as good as the people behind the scenes and onstage, and once again Gateway has brought Broadway to Bellport in style.
Read the original article at: http://danspapers.com/2014/05/bellports-gateway-playhouse-presents-42nd-street/
The New York Times - June 2, 2014
BY AILEELN JACOBSON
One of the songs in “42nd Street,” the popular 1980 musical based on a famous 1933 movie, asks, “What do you go for, Go see a show for?”
The answer in the song, a tuneful excuse for a strutting fashion show, is “those beautiful dames.” But the musical’s answer to the same question is “those dancing feet,” a lyric in the title song. And that is especially true in the production at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, which is directed by Randy Skinner. Mr. Skinner choreographed the long-running 2001 Broadway revival and earned a Tony nomination in the process. The fast-tapping numbers that dominate the show are splendidly synchronized and complex, and it’s fun to watch a talented and well-drilled ensemble execute them as precisely as this one does.
Mr. Skinner’s choreography, which he drew in part from Gower Champion’s dances for the 1980 production (in which Mr. Skinner was a dance assistant), is adapted here by Mary Giattino-Styles. The Gateway stage, though spacious by regional standards, is not nearly as large as the cavernous Broadway house — now the Foxwoods Theater, previously the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and soon to be the Lyric — that hosted the 2001 production. This cast is not as big as that one either. But there is a nice intimacy to be gained by the reduction in scale. The dancers’ footwork and the smiles on their faces are a lot easier to see.
Shannon O’Bryan plays a sunny Peggy Sawyer, the naïve young performer who arrives from Allentown, Pa., and lands a spot in the chorus of “Pretty Lady,” the Broadway-bound show that all the characters in “42nd Street” are working on. She eventually lands a more important role — not giving anything away here that most theatergoers don’t already know — eliciting the command from her director, “You’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”
Ms. O’Bryan is a terrific dancer, but her pleasant voice is not as rich as that of Catherine LeFrere, who plays Dorothy Brock, the disagreeable diva who has been hired to star in “Pretty Lady.” Ms. LeFrere, who wholeheartedly embraces her bad-girl role to good comic effect, softens considerably in “About a Quarter to Nine,” her duet with Ms. O’Bryan. In that song, the seasoned star teaches the rising one how to deliver a beautiful ballad by quietly drawing the audience in, and that is what Ms. LeFrere does. There’s no dancing, but this is one of the highlights of the evening.
In another major role, that of the director Julian Marsh, James Lloyd Reynolds also displays a mellifluous voice. His oddly unassertive performance, however, doesn’t convey why Marsh is both revered and feared by the people who work for him. He almost fades into the background, except when he is singing “Lullaby of Broadway” and a reprise of the title song, both toward the end of the musical.
Energy abounds in the rest of the cast. Drew Humphrey (who had a smaller role in a 2012 production of the musical at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, and choreographed and starred in that theater’s “White Christmas” last year) bursts with leading-man bravado as Billy Lawlor, a young actor who starts wooing Peggy from the minute he sees her. Kathryn Kendall, who knows how to play a brassy dame, and Steve Luker, another veteran comedic actor, are endearing as the couple who are writing, producing and appearing in “Pretty Lady.” They are the show’s comforting anchors. Amy Van Norstrand, who plays a chorus girl named Annie, brightens the scenes she is in, including a pivotal one in which she stands up for Peggy and sets in motion the “come back a star” plotline.
It’s a good thing that the show moves along quickly, because the book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble sometimes borders on the nonsensical. But the songs, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, are stellar. From the first notes of the overture — which begins with the tune of “We’re in the Money”— shoulders shrugged and heads bobbed throughout the audience. Jonathan Parks, the musical director, leads a fine orchestra.
When the ensemble’s insistent taps join in, they become musical instruments themselves. We first see only the dancers’ feet, as the curtain briefly hesitates just above them during the opening number, in a touch recreated from Mr. Skinner’s Broadway choreography. Toward the end, he incorporates another memorable bit: a hard-dancing finale in which the tapping sometimes goes a cappella. That’s what you go to see this show for.
Read the original article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/nyregion/a-review-of-42nd-street-in-bellport.html
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