reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

42nd Street, which opened this week at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, certainly has a long history. The 1933 film musical, which many of us are familiar with, was based on the eponymous 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes. In turn, a Broadway stage version, directed by Gower Champion, appeared in 1980 to great acclaim, winning awards for choreography and costuming. Some memorable tunes come from the show – namely “We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, and the title song – “42nd Street”.

The show’s story arc is pure 1930’s idealism: a small town girl, Peggy Sawyer, arrives in New York City to chase her dream of being a Broadway star – but she is turned away at her first audition. Suddenly, as her talents becomes more evident, she’s offered a small role by famous director Julian Marsh. There is a clash with the salty established star of the show, Dorothy Brock. Eventually on opening night, Sawyer is blamed for an injury to the star and is fired on the spot. When Marsh finds he’ll need a replacement for his disabled lead, he chases after Peggy, finds her at the train station and coaxes her to rejoin the cast – which assures her meteoric rise into stardom. The thin plot amounts to the stylings of a revue, where traditionally we come to be entertained primarily by the inserted songs and dancing – and that is exactly what choreographer Ron Morgan and director Eddie Curry have achieved here.

The cast of “42nd Street” in the “Getting Out of Town” number

Mr. Morgan has gone all out, fashioning at least 10 rousing tap dance numbers – most of them employing the complete set of hoofers, which includes all the talented dance corps members and most of the leads. It makes for scintillating musical numbers, which wow us again and again!

Kaylee Verble (center) stars as Peggy Sawyer – with dancers (from left) AnnaLee Traeger, Jen Martin, Sally Scharbrough and Amy Owens.

The sparkling cast is well-stocked with amazing voices and dancers. Kaylee Verble makes her B&B debut in the role of Peggy Sawyer, and she certainly fits the part of the uber-talented small-town girl. Unassumingly reserved and energetically focused, Ms. Kaylee’s Peggy is just perfect for the 30’s storyline. Countering her innocence is the aging star, Dorothy Brock, played to the hilt by B&B favorite, Sarah Hund. Ms. Hund’s undeniable talents are well featured here as she sails through her musical numbers with a seemingly effortless luster.

(foreground from left) Billy Lawlor (Dan Bob Higgins), Abner Dillon (jeff Stockberger) and Dorothy Brock (Sarah Hund) in a scene from “42nd Street”.
(background) – composers Maggie Jones (Lanene Charters) and Bert Barry (Brett Mutter)

The two male leads – director Julian Marsh and youthful star Billy Lawlor – are offered up by Mark Epperson and Dan Bob Higgins. Both return to B&B after recent successes here, and both carry on the high levels of performance we have previously noted from them. Epperson is commanding as director Marsh, while Higgins advances a set of glossy song & dance performances.

Notable supporting role turns are given by Jeff Stockbereger as a comic Abner Dillon – Dorothy Brock’s “sugar-daddy” – as well as, Brett Mutter and Lanene Charters doing fine work as composer/performers Bert Barry and Maggie Jones. Kristy Templet leads the B&B orchestra which turns in great sound and high energy – exactly what is needed for the show.

Peggy Sawyer (Kaylee Verble) and Julian Marsh (Mark Epperson) in the “Lullaby of Broadway” scene

On the tech side – Michael Layton has designed a very colorful and functional rotating set. Costumer Jill Kelly Howe has gone above and beyond her normally exceptional design work and has rendered an unbelievable volume of exquisite, dazzling and shimmering costumes for the cast – which one must see to believe.

Just one example of Jill Kelly Howe’s incredible costume design work as Don Bob Higgins (center) leads the dance corps in “We’re in the Money”.

Bottomline: I am afraid I may not have used enough superlatives to describe the gleaming extravaganza that B&B’s impressive 42nd Street is. The energetic cast provides a splendid array of musical entertainment that I doubt will be matched soon. Congrats to all involved in the effort. This is a true hit show!

42nd Street continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through May 19th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – Photos by Julie Curry
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