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Center Stage: '42nd Street' delivers an evening of fun and frolic

October 31, 2018
By MARSHA WAGNER , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

As the 193rd production, the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers chose the perfect musical to kick off "the season," with "42nd Street." According to owner and Executive Producer Will Prather, "42nd Street" is a "dazzling tribute to Broadway and New York City and the perfect show to kick off our major musicals of our 26th season." Director and choreographer Ann Nieman added, "It's a refreshing and genuine visit of hopefulness that can seem to be somewhat lacking nowadays," to which I can only add, "Right on!"

"42nd Street," a book written by Michael Stewart - of "Hello, Dolly!" - and Mark Bramble, is a Broadway show about putting on a Broadway show. This latest Broadway Palm production of the original Busby Berkley 1933 movie and 1980 Gower Champion Broadway stage version is still the classic Broadway musical in capital letters, with all the production values intact. It is an energetic delight with lots of dazzling costumes by John White and imaginative set designs by Christine Peters. But once again the real star of this super production is Neiman.

Her musical staging, direction and spectacular dance routines are snappy, sparkly and imaginative and, she's found a dancing-singing chorus that is nothing short of stupendous. There are tons of dance routines, which are a fitting tribute to both of the original choreographers Berkely and Champion. Being as I'm a sucker for dance and dancers, I was in hog heaven watching this high-energy cast bring back the thrill of a stage filled with a high kicking, solid tapping chorus, guys and gals. Let's not forget to honor the buoyant bouncy songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin that one couldn't stop singing long after the curtain descended.

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Marsha Wagner

The opening curtain rose just enough to reveal the limbs of a line of hard-driving tap dancers, the precise steps pounding out a beat that matched the rat-a-tat of our hearts as we thrilled to this audacious beginning. When the curtain rose further, we were transported to 1933 and Broadway's 42nd Street Theater, where they are holding auditions for a show titled "Pretty Baby." We meet a young and talented hopeful from Allentown, Pennsylvania, auditioning for the chorus - Peggy Sawyer, played to perfection by Nikki Miller.

We see the show through the rehearsal process, up to the first performance, during which leading lady and Broadway star Dorothy Brock - played by fabulously talented Jennifer Hope - twists her ankle, and show director Julian Marsh - gifted James Schultz - declares the show has been canceled, the audience can get its money back. Confused? Well, he's referring to "Pretty Lady," not "42nd Street" - that device is a way to get the Palm's audience to intermission.

Act II opens when Marsh chooses Peggy to break out of the chorus and take over the leading role.

It's a simple plot, nothing to tax the little grey cells, but it does provide us a way to see the wonderful dancing chorus, numerous star turns - notably James Schultz as the Broadway producer, Miller as ingenue Peggy, Hope who knocks it out of the park with two great songs as the ailing leading lady Dorothy, Sam Brackley as the juvenile lead for "Pretty Lady" as Billy Lawlor, and two funny co-stars and co-authors of "Pretty Lady," Victor Legarreta as Bert Barry and Meagan Michelson as Maggie Jones.

And let's acknowledge some other "stand out performances," like Chris Duir as Andy Lee, the dance director. I'd be remiss if I didn't include some of the lesser roles, including chorus girls Samantha Gardner as Phyllis, Amy Fenicle as Lorraine and the delightful Sami Doherty as outstanding "anytime Annie." It is high time these gifted performers got some sort of recognition. Bravo!

If you are up for an evening of fun and frolic, then "42nd Street" is just what the doctor ordered and - "Come with me to the avenue, I'm taking you to 42nd Street." So, snap to it and phone the box office at 239-278-4422. Do not delay since this blockbuster closes on Nov. 17.

Remember when you phone, tell 'em Marsha sent you.



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