The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music’s Musical Theatre program has produced one of my favorite old-school musicals, 42ND STREET, this weekend. Full of big, brassy songs and some of the most energetic tap dancing you’ll ever see, the show is a classic. I think there are two ways to direct it successfully; go big all the way, accentuating all the flash and sizzle and powering through the light story OR look for nuance where there really might not be any. Director and choreographer Diane Lala chooses the first approach.
There’s no where else locally where you will see big traditional musical numbers of this caliber. The talent on the stage (and off, with costuming, lighting, and choreography) is unparalleled and its why many of the graduates from UC-CCM immediately book Broadway and national tours. The number of skilled triple threats (singer/dancer/actor) that graduate every year is staggering. And this cast showcases some of the best.
Standouts were Bailee Endebrock (Peggy Sawyer) who carried the show from start to finish with her multiple abilities. She managed to maximize the quiet moments while taking full advantage of her tap shoes in the big ones. Jamie Goodson handled the older character of Dorothy Brock quite well and her scene with Endebrock towards the end of Act 2 choked me up a little. Also solid was dancing star Michael Canu (Andy), the comedic Camila Paquet (Maggie), Zoë Grolnick (Annie), and Jack Brewer as Billy Lawlor. Nick Berninger’s voice soars as Julian Marsh, which is a very difficult role to play. The ensemble hit their marks and danced their tails off.
I thought Samantha Kittle’s wigs were well done and matched the characters well. Costuming a show like this is a massive undertaking and Reba Senske came through as usual. Jeremy Mayo’s lights were spot-on, and lit up Mark Halpin’s functional and grand set pieces well. Hankyu Lee’s audio mix between Roger Grodsky’s superb orchestra and the vocal microphones was balanced well. (There were a few mic cue issues, per normal.)
The book is underwritten, despite having multiple characters to work with. Perhaps that’s the problem with the show, but seemingly Lala works around it with her staging. Those big musical production numbers – especially the tap dances, choreographed by Katie Johannigman – were remarkably crowd pleasing. Everyone left the theatre smiling.
Sometimes that’s all you need.
42nd Street has one more performance tomorrow at 2pm. There are a few tickets available and can be found here. Up next: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW directed by Vince DeGeorge, which opens Halloween night.