Earlier this week I had the pleasure of going to the Ordway to see their re imagined version of 42nd street. The show 42nd street has always been about tap dance, the many cast recordings of this well known musical are filled with dance powered percussion. But in the Ordway's production it is not only about and tap dance, the dancing and choreography by Jared Grimes is the center of and arguably the star of the show. Many of the musical numbers have been reworked to emphasize the percussive power that drives the show. Not only do the dancers on stage drive this beat but so does the orchestra that is proudly presented on a platform on stage. At times it did seem that the percussion and volume level of the band was fighting and sometimes over powering the amazingly talented dancers on stage.
The show is a glorious spectacle and all elements of the show worked together to deliver a top notch show. The set by Paul Tate dePoo III is versatile, the costumes by Emilio Soso make the show feel more modern while still leaving it in its time of the great depression. And the lighting design by Mike Balassari highlights the treat for the eyes which is 42nd street.
The cast is fantastic. Billy Lawler played by the very talented Phillip Attmore is filled with charisma Tamara Tunie as Dorthy Brock was magnetic. The cast is also filled with Twin Cities favorites such as Tyler Michaels King, T Mychael Rambo and Jamecia Bennett. As much as the show is filled with an amazing cast with individual performances the true star of the show is the ensemble who deliver back to back to back show shopping numbers.
In making this production all about tap dance, modernizing the music and choreography it stripped away a lot of the other portions of the show. The story itself felt less gripping than in past productions of 42nd that I have seen. Instead the plot felt like a rough outline and a vehicle for moving from one luscious musical number to the other. For example at the beginning of the Lullaby of Broadway (whose music was unchanged from the original) I did not feel the weight that a large group of people were about to lose their jobs in the middle of the Great Depression. I was also a bit saddened to see the the beautiful jazz portion of the titular and final song removed as the finale was reworked for this new production.
As a fan of the show 42nd street it was thrilling to see a new reworked version of the show on stage. I hope that it has the chance to be performed elsewhere in the country because it is an amazing theatrical experience. It is well worth a visit to the Ordway to see this truly special and unique production.
42nd street is playing at the Ordway in Saint Paul until August 11th.
*photo by Paul Tate dePoo III