Re-review: 42nd Street, Theatre Royal Drury Lane

42nd Street is signing off at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in quite some style as a perfectly-cast Bonnie Langford joins the company

“Musical comedy – the most glorious words in the English language”

I liked 42nd Street when I saw it last year but I can’t say that I truly loved it, it felt a 24 carat production of a gold-plate show. But upon revisiting, to celebrate Bonnie Langford’s arrival in the company for its final furlong before closing in the New Year, some kind of magic seems to have happened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (or maybe I was just less grumpy tonight!) as it has now matured into something spectacular.

The only major difference is Langford’s presence as Dorothy Brock, but there’s just something about her that shimmers with star quality and it is contagious. So even as she’s trying to dampen it down a bit as this particular fading star, her comic timing makes her scenes crackle with electricity, her singing is on point and she’s just a dream to watch. It’s a perfect role for her – who needs stunt casting when you have the right casting? And as for her surprise appearance in the finale? SWOON!

I also felt Clare Halse has really settled into the role of Peggy Sawyer. It’s a curious role in that she grows to become the leading lady of this musical as the understudy-come-good, but is given precious little time in which to do so and most of that is taken up with dance. Such amazing dance though, she really is effortless in her every graceful move, and she’s acting more through every movement too as her self-belief slowly blooms into the incandescent life of the finale.   

Ashley Day, another (relative) newcomer to the cast, also impresses as the suavely confident Billy, and a shout-out too to Graeme Henderson as dance director Andy who also really has got some moves! Randy Skinner’s choreography is a thing of wonder when there’s this many bodies delivering it in perfect synchronicity (credit to associate choreographer Kelli Barclay and resident choreographer Simon Adkins for keeping them on top of things). From that opening scene, to the mirrored sequence, to those glorious steps of the finale, this is what we mean when we say ‘they really put on a show’.

In Douglas W Schmidt’s lavishly sumptuous set designs and under Peter Mumford’s dazzling lights, Mark Bramble’s production just all works, somehow so much better than before. MD Jae Alexander keeps Harry Warren’s score sunny and bright, the cast clearly know how to work Bramble and Michael Stewart’s book to their advantage but above all, there’s no loss of the sense of genuine spectacle to the whole affair. I don’t know long it will be until we ever see a production this size again, don’t miss your chance to see this one now. 

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Brinkhoff & Moegenburg
42nd Street is booking at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until 5th January

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