An aspiring chorus girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Peggy Sawyer, arrives in Depression-era New York and joins the ensemble of Pretty Lady, a new Broadway show. Right before opening night, the star of the show breaks her ankle. Will Peggy be able to step into the starring role and soar to stardom? With marvelous tap numbers, snazzy costumes, and well-known songs like “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” and “42nd Street,” the musical 42nd Street at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts is a winner.
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, 42nd Street premiered on Broadway on August 25, 1980, at the Winter Garden Theatre, starring Jerry Orbach, Wanda Richert, and Tammy Grimes. The show migrated to the Majestic and St. James theaters, where it played for a total of 3,486 performances. The show garnered two Tony Awards and was revived in 2001. The book is by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, the music is by Harry Warren, and the lyrics are by Al Dubin.
This show is among my favorite musicals I’ve seen this year because of three members of the production team: Director/Co-Choreographer Penny Ayn Maas, Music Director Carson Eubank, and Co-Choreographer Stephanie Wood.
The spine of this show is tap dancing, and the flesh is choreography. Complementing those elements was Eubank’s music direction. While Frank Foster’s scenic design and Erin Welsh’s costume coordination were superb, they took a backseat to the amazing flow and movement of the players.
A standout player was Andrea McArdle, who played the star of the play-within-a-play, Dorothy Brock. In 1977, McArdle originated the role of Annie in the well-known musical of the same name. She became the youngest performer to be Tony-nominated as Best Lead Actress in a Musical.
McArdle showed her chops in numbers such as “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “In Three: Shadow Waltz,” and “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me.” She also showed vulnerability as an older and fading star.
New York–based actor Rebecca Carroll brought innocence to her role as Peggy Sawyer. I loved her performances in the tunes “Young and Healthy” and “About a Quarter to Nine.”
Carroll and McArdle had a memorable duet as Peggy and Dorothy in “About a Quarter to Nine.” I liked the pass-the-torch scene they had after McArdle’s character broke her ankle.
“Young and Healthy,” “Getting Out of Town,” and “I Only Have Eyes for You (Reprise)” highlighted the talent of Collins Rush, who played Peggy’s castmate and would-be lover Billy Lawlor. The role was Rush’s Riverside Center debut.
Kathy Halenda brought brassiness to her role as the co-author of the play-within-the-play, Maggie Jones. Other notable performances were turned in by Alan Hoffman and Stephanie Wood as Berty Barry and Ann “Anytime Annie” Reilly respectively. Wood also served as Dance Captain.
Christopher Sanders, an award-winning singer and actor, had a marvelous solo in the titular tune “42nd Street.” Sanders played Julian Marsh, the director of the play-within-the-play. He also brought powerful pipes to “Lullaby of Broadway.”
The bossiness of Sanders’ character, Julien, was tempered by a concern for his cast, as evidenced by the memorable pep talk he gave Peggy before opening night. His performance also helped highlight how the so-called “theater gods” always seem to bring impossibly disparate fragments of a show into a cohesive whole — as many a performer knows.
42nd Street brings Broadway to the “V” in the DMV. I commend Producing Artistic Director Patrick A’Hearn, in his 14th season, for making Riverside Center (in its 25th year) a continued mecca for high-quality musicals. Director Maas has directed a must-see show that audiences will love.
Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours with a 15-minute intermission.
Adult Dinner & Show – $75 (plus applicable taxes)
Seniors (65+) Dinner & Show – $70 (plus applicable taxes)
Adult Show Only – $60
Seniors (65+) Show Only – $55
Children (3-12) Show Only – $55
There will be a $5.00 online processing fee added per ticket.
COVID Safety: Patrons are not required to be masked in the facility; but if patrons want to wear a mask, they are welcome to.
Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes
Dorothy Brock: Andrea McArdle
Julian Marsh: Christopher Sanders
Peggy Sawyer: Rebecca Carroll
Billy Lawlor: Collins Rush
Maggie Jones: Kathy Halenda
Bert Barry: Alan Hoffman
Anytime Annie, Ens: Stephanie Wood
Andy Lee, Ens.: Anthony Williams
Phyllis Dale, Ens.: Sarah Mae Andersen
Pat Denning, Ens.: Kevin Cleary
Lorraine Flemming, Ens.: Delaney Jackson
Abner Dillon: Ian Lane
Gladys, Ens.: Sally Roehl
Ensemble: Keaton Brandt, Elizabeth C. Butler, Alyssa Dinka, Stephen Eisenwasser, Solomon Iem, Caitlyn Minuto, Brandon Morris, Larry Toyter
Oscar: David Landrum
Male Swing: Christopher Florio
Female Swing: Katherine Wright
ARTISTIC AND CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Penny Ayn Maas
Music Direction: Carson Eubank
Co-Choreography: Stephanie Wood and Penny Ayn Maas
Scenic Design: Frank Foster
Lighting Design: Weston Corey
Costume Coordination: Erin Welsh
Production Stage Manager: Jennifer Rose Hardin
Sound Design: Delaney Bray
Properties Master and Set Dresser: Claire Flores
Producer: Patrick A’Hearn