Review: 42nd Street, Sadler’s Wells

When the dancing is dancing, there’s nothing grander than 42nd Street, playing now at Sadlers Wells, but when the tapping stops…

“I don’t know exactly how it started
But it started in fun”

Funny how time works sometimes. I could have sworn 42nd Street was only just in town but it is a good six years since it closed at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Its impact clearly lives long in my head and so this touring production, originating at Leicester’s Curve before a summer season at Sadler’s Wells and then a full set of UK dates, had more to live up to than perhaps I’d reckoned for.

Directed by Jonathan Church and choreographed by Bill Deamer, this production has all the tap-dancing joy and joie de vivre in its musical numbers to more than pass muster, even if its scale is of a different measure. But without that same sense of the spectacular to near-overwhelm the senses, the attention does fall back onto the shonkiness of the show and of some of the choices here.

Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s show-must-go-on book is wafer-thin and whilst this has always painfully obvious when the tapping stops, it is exacerbated here. Ruthie Henshall’s voice and Adam Garcia’s dancing are beyond joyous but they can’t inject the necessary life into scenes without those skills; even Les Dennis can’t find relief in his comic relief character, it’s all so dated and dry.

Fortunately, Nicole-Lily Baisden lives up to Peggy Sawyer’s billing as star-in-the-making with a consummate leading lady performance, supported well by Sam Lips as her seasoned leading man Billy. And Josefina Gabrielle is under-used (as too often happens) as a supporting character who manages to break through the material to deliver a performance to remember as co-show-writer Maggie.

Good frivolous fun then, and worth suffering through the longueurs, for those moments of such glorious musical theatre song and dance.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
42nd Street is booking at Sadler’s Wells until 2nd July, then continues to tour with new casting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *