And you thought Disney was innovative for making a Broadway musical out of “The Lion King?” (Well, yeah, they were pretty innovative, but I digress). “42nd Street,” playing at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center through April 27, is Broadway’s version of the classic 1933 Warner Brothers musical that introduced choreographer Busby Berkeley to the world. And make no mistake, this show is all about choreography.
But it is a musical, you say. What about the music? “Lullaby of Broadway,” Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” “We’re In The Money,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” (What – you thought Art Garfunkle wrote that?) and of course “42nd Street” are big money production numbers that have stood the test of time. But don’t expect to walk away from the theatre humming the tunes. Instead expect to tap dance your way back to your automobile. Dance, dance, dance – the plot, the music, the costumes, the sets; they are all just an excuse for dozens of beautiful people to dance!
Okay, the costumes were pretty darn cool, too. We’re talking sparkly, spangled, sequined from the tip-top of the guys’ top hats to the silver taps and the ladies’ tap shoes. Speaking of tap shoes, did I mention the dancing?
“42nd Street” is a Broadway musical about a Broadway musical. In the tradition of the great MGM ‘let’s put on a show!’ musicals, small town girl Peggy Sawyer (Catherine Wreford) comes to Broadway to make it big. She gets a lucky break and is cast as part of the chorus. When the leading lady, Dorothy Brock (former Nashvillian, Blair Ross) breaks her leg (I’m not kidding) Peggy gets the call to save the show by stepping into Brock’s dancing shoes.
The plot is contrived, derivative, and paper thin – but “42nd Street” was never intended as high drama. It is a foil for the (say it with me) dancing. And dance they do. “42nd Street” sports a huge cast by touring company standards, with a number of the dancers drawn from the ranks of the Rockettes. The order of the day is tap, and lots of it. The combination of lush sets, eye-popping costumes, and too-fast-for-the-eye-to-follow tapping makes for an evening of glitzy, glamorous, flashy, cheesy, romantic, old-fashioned fun.
A word of caution to parents – some of the themes expressed in the show, particular the “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” number, are quite adult in nature, though by no means explicit.


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