Theatre Review: 42nd Street - New Wimbledon Theatre ✭✭

42nd Street

Starring Dave Willetts & Marti Webb
Bruce Montague, Jessica Punch & James O’Connell
Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Music By Harry Warren
Lyrics By Al Dubin
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes
Choreographer Graeme Henderson
Director Mark Bramble

Tuesday 11th September: Having never seen 42nd Street on stage or on film I was excited and intrigued as I sat down to enjoy the show at the New Wimbledon Theatre in which I have seen many great productions over the years. Set in 1933 42nd Street follows the story of a chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Jessica Punch) who by luck, coincidence or destiny manages to take over the leading role in the company’s performance of ‘Pretty Girl’ when the leading lady Dorothy Brock (Marti Webb) breaks her ankle and can no longer perform.

The show opened with ‘Audition’ in which the ensemble performed a routine that was succinct and very enjoyable to watch. ‘Andy Lee’ was played well by Graeme Henderson and his ease with the steps was aesthetically pleasing and a great opening for the show. Unfortunately, as the show went on the sparkle that appeared originally began to fade. Marti Webb (cast as Dorothy) didn’t stand out much and was rather lacklustre to watch. Although her vocals were effective her acting came across stiff and emotionless. This was a shame as Webb is an iconic singer and therefore as an audience member you were expecting big things from her performance.

Famous numbers such as ‘Go into your dance’, ‘We’re in the money’ and ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ were over acted and almost shouted instead of sung. The stage often seem over crowed and slightly chaotic in the dance routines, I felt the male chorus stood out in numbers such as ‘Dames’ and ‘Plenty of money & you’ they danced with grace and at times were more enjoyable to watch then the lead roles.

I felt the production as a whole came across as dated and although the general standard of performance was good everything seemed far too overdone and predictable. Compared to shows such as ‘Singin’ in the rain’ and ‘Top Hat’, ‘42nd Street’ seems to be missing that all American sparkle that these shows usually and should have. As an audience member I wasn’t captivated enough and didn’t have the urge to tap my foot and applaud loudly at the end of each number, which is the reaction one expects from a professional musical. The show would have been a lot more entertaining if the comedy had been expressed more. In the programme it states that the film 42nd street was ‘one of the first great musical comedies to come out of Hollywood.’ This comedy was attempted in the stage production but didn’t receive many laughs instead creating an awkward atmosphere.  I did feel that the ensemble tap performances were done well and the chorus gave there all to the routines, which at times were intricate and effective.

It’s a real shame to say I was disappointed with this production as ‘42nd Street’ is such a well known hit musical and I had such great expectations. Unfortunately due to poor casting, shabby costumes and lack of pizzazz it’s not an experience I would want to repeat. Unfortunately my sentiments agree with Mr Marsh as he says in the show ‘Pretty Lady will have to close.’

2 out of 5 stars ✭✭

Review by Camilla Marlow

Listings Info:

Date:  Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 September (Tue – Sat eves, 7.30pm Thu & Sat mats, 2.30pm) 

Ticket Price: £15- £35 (premium seats available)

Telephone Booking: 0844 871 7646

Groups Bookings: 0844 871 7696

Access Bookings: 0844 871 7677

Address: New Wimbledon Theatre
                   The Broadway
                   SW19 1QG