REVIEW: 42nd Street

Pure unadulterated joy.  That’s what a good tap dancing show gives to me. And this is a very good tap dancing show.

42ND STREET is a show about a show – “Pretty Lady,” the latest musical comedy from director “Julian Marsh” – and we’re privy to the trials and tribulations of putting up a hit Broadway production.  There’s romance, intrigue, jealousy, and comedy hijinks.  Most of all there are grand large-scale production numbers.  And an awful lot of tap dancing.

This talented ensemble is in sync as they dance across the stage in numbers like “Dames” and “We’re in the Money” and of course the title number, “42nd Street.”  The characterizations of Marsh (Matthew J Taylor), aging star “Dorothy Brock” (Kara Gibson Slocum), and “Maggie Jones” (Gerianne Genga) are exceptional.  Taylor also has the richest baritone voice I’ve heard in a while, shining on numbers like “Lullaby on Broadway” and the above mentioned “42nd Street.”  Other notable elements are the solid dancing by Connor Coughlin as “Billy Lawlor” and Carlos Morales as “Andy.”

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Clara Cox is “Peggy Sawyer”

While the ensemble is well stocked with exceptional chorus guys and gals, it’s the moment that “Peggy Sawyer” (Clara Cox) – a young girl with wide-eyed dreams – walks on stage that everything changes.  I’ve seen Cox tackle comic roles like “Logainne” in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” She put in an impressive athletic performance of “Brooke Wyndham” in “Legally Blonde.” She was a buoyant “Peter Pan,” and a heartbreaker as the tragic “Whatshername” in “American Idiot” all at UC-CCM.

But “Peggy Sawyer” feels like the role she was born to play.

Peggy is a naturally gifted “hoofer.”  So is Cox.  The audience literally gasped when she danced her first tap-steps.  As naive and innocent as Sawyer is, Cox has a similar pure energy.  It exudes from her naturally. Clara Cox is a brilliant actress, one of the best to come out of CCM in sometime.  But Peggy Sawyer feels like a natural extension of her personality.  It’s authentic. Cox’s own radiance informs the character well.

The role is also well-sung, with just the right amount of show business pizzazz sprinkled into her well-trained voice.  It’s charming.  And it’s a must-see performance.

And have I mentioned the dancing?  Cox and company absolutely shine, especially in the explosive grand finale.  The opening night audience was enthusiastic during the curtain call.  And even afterwards there was a buzz in the air.  Everyone seemed a little kinder, a little more patient with one another.  They seemed happy.

And really, how could you not be full of joy after a production like this?

42nd Street runs through Sunday in the Mead Theater in the Schuster Center in Downtown Dayton.  The show is presented by the Victoria Theatre Association as part of the Premier Health Broadway Series.  Click here for tickets and more information.