We stepped into a world of pure razzle-dazzle when we went to see 42nd Street at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. This show embodies musical theatre to the absolute core, as you follow an inspiring story of fighting against the odds to try and make it big on Broadway, watching as the glamour of theatre meets the trials and tribulations of backstage life.
Fresh off the bus from small-town America, young and beautiful Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City dreaming of her name in lights. She quickly catches the eye of a big-time director and lands a spot in the chorus line of Broadway’s newest show… and when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets her shot at stardom.
The show opens with a mesmerising tap dance number instantly igniting excitement of what lies ahead. It truly blows my mind how people can master the skill of tap-dancing, not only executing moves in perfect time but also creating an accompanying percussion which builds atmosphere and anticipation – the way this was worked into the entire show was electric, setting the room abuzz.
Samantha Womack played the role of Dorothy Brock, an iconic figure in the industry who is battling her desire to continue a career in the spotlight with wanting to follow her heart, which was leading her to embark on a life with the man she loves. Samantha gave powerful vocal performances mixed with moments of humour, in a classy portrayal of a lady trying to stay at the forefront of an increasingly younger industry.
The show’s stressed out director, Julian Marsh, was played by Michael Praed, a slightly cynical man who lost his faith in the magic of theatre but through his commitment to making a hit out of Pretty Lady (the show within the show) and the inspiration he finds in members of the cast and crew around him, we see a spark of passion reignite within him. Michael’s smooth tones drift over the audience when he takes centre stage to perform solo numbers, and proceeds to stun us as he belts out lines from the 42nd Street song, closing the show in a (metaphorical) mic drop style.
The young starry eyed Peggy Sawyer is played by Nicole-Lily Baisden, who gives a heartfelt performance of someone who is full of optimism and hope for a future that she envisions. Nicole-Lily oozes talent as she throws herself into complicated dance routines without faltering on the words of the songs. She manages to tug at the heart strings and has the audience rooting for her to not give up on navigating the backstage politics in order to follow her dreams.
Sam Lips plays the role of leading tenor and Peggy’s love interest – Billy Lawlor, he dances with ease, striking crisp dance moves, commanding the stage with confidence and continues to wow the audience when he sings with the notes he can hit, and hold!
Faye Tozer takes to stage as Maggie Jones, the co-writer and producer of Pretty Lady. Well known for her days in Steps and with a strong back-catalogue of theatre performances it is unsurprising that she is a stand out talent in the production. Portraying an upbeat high energy lady who lives for the theatre and supportive of all who surround her, she holds her own amongst the cast in fun dance numbers and strong vocals. Along with her on screen co-writing and producing partner, Bert Barry, played by Les Dennis, they both play a lovable pair who have a passion for making theatre great, offering a touch of comedy which had the audience laughing along throughout the show.
There is no small part in this production as we watch the highly talented ensemble come together in spectacular dance routines, their voices chorusing out as one to the audience in perfect harmony, which lifts you up and brings a sense of wonder at the unity of them.
For a night of pure joy this is the show to go to! It offers a classical style of musical theatre where you get caught up in the glitz and glam of the era and find yourself humming your way out of the theatre. 42nd Street will be playing at Mayflower Theatre until the 7th October so there is still time to lose yourself in a timeless and inspiring showbiz fairy tale for a couple of hours.
Words by Vicky Anscombe