Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 14, 2009

42nd Street

Goodspeed, East Haddam, CT
through July 4, 2009
by Shera Cohen

"The show must go on!" This cliché is the entire plot of the sparkling, toe-tapping "42nd Street" at Goodspeed Opera House. The story is the backstage life of a new musical - the audition, rehearsal, and tour of "Pretty Ladies" (the play within the play). The era is the Great Depression. Why "great" was ever linked with the economic doldrums of "Depression" is a question to ponder. "Great" can, however, apply to this revival in 2009. Perhaps it was not a coincidence when Goodspeed planned its season opener to be more apropos in theme than one would have guessed.

As the sounds of the pit orchestra hit that strong opening note and the ruby red curtain rises, onstage are 14 hoofers tapping away. Their shoes are another instrument, and one that never stops during the entire musical, thank goodness. The ensemble is first and foremost superb dancers. They are young, energetic, attractive, in unison, and can sing. The production itself is the "star" and can be compared to a large canvas - on it are colors, swooshes, vibrancy, glitter, boldness, and whimsy. Some of these colors are literal in the costumes (the musical becomes a 1930s fashion show) and the lighting.

That said, this is not to discount those in leading roles, with each actor playing his/her caricature exceptionally well. Kristen Martin (ingénue heroine) is a sweet soprano who taps as fast as a speeding bullet. Austin Miller (her beau and Harry Connick look-alike) is sassy with feet that keep up with his gal. James Lloyd Reynolds (the boss) doesn't sing much, but delivers comedy so straight to get extra laughs. Laurie Wells (leading lady) is the real singer in this quartet. And what do they sing that leaves the audience unable to eradicate tunes from their collective heads for the next week? "We're in the Money," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," and the title number.

The other important stars are choreographer Rick Conant and director Ray Roderick - a dynamic duo who set the tone and spirit of "42nd Street" to please the likes of Busby Berkeley.