I have written before how a traditional musical has been bowdlerised by changes of plot, location or story. 42nd Street did not fall into this trap. You could have seen this production when the film was released in 1933. And why change anything? The musical has three songs which are still well known I only have Eyes for You, Stay Young and Beautiful and Lullaby for Broadway. It has spectacular choreography and an uplifting story that would have lifted an America 3 years into the Great Depression.
The message is a simple one but one that would have resonated with a country where over 13 million were out of work.
Producer Julian Marsh (Tom Lister) is rehearsing a musical called Pretty Lady . His temperamental star Dorothy Brock (Sheena Easton) breaks her ankle after a collision with chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Claire Halse) but the show has to go on as it’s close to first night so Sawyer takes her place triumphantly.
Sheena Easton, who has sold over 20 million records can certainly belt out a number, whilst Clare Halse’s tap dancing is worth the admission money alone. It’s a show within a show and works with great numbers, dance sequences, sets and costumes. It’s a hark-back to the great Broadway musicals of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell.
The genre was to change in the fifties with the MGM musicals of Arthur Freed (Singing In The Rain, Gigi, Brigadoon) and My Fair Lady and again in the seventies with Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice – but if you like a traditional Broadway show I urge you to see it whilst you can.