42nd Street: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane- five stars
IT IS the greatest tap dancing musical of them all and this latest lavish production is a triumph. The show opened in this theatre in 1984 and ran for five years and there is no reason for this revival not to do the same.
Based on the 1933 Hollywood movie musical, with added Al Dubin and Harry Warren songs, it is a classic backstage tale. Unpleasant Dorothy Brock, star of Pretty Lady, a new musical directed by tyrannical Julian Marsh being tried out in Philadelphia prior to Broadway, breaks her leg. Who alone can save the day? Newcomer chorus girl Peggy Sawyer, of course.
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The 40 plus ensemble – the largest to be seen on the West End stage in many a day – are the real stars of the show, performing endless, punishing routines brilliantly, but the leads are not outshone. Sheen Easton sings splendidly as Brock, one of the most unrewarding leading lady roles ever in a musical: she is nasty and has surprisingly little to do in Act Two. Tom Lister, as Marsh, is everone's idea of an alpha male and gets the title song and Lullaby of Broadway to sing, and Clare Halse, as Sawyer, sings and dances like an angel, out tapping everyone else without seeming to draw breath. Add the colourful sets, and a Busby Berkeley routine in which the chorines lie in a circle on the revolving stage, a mirror descends from the flies, and as they wave their legs and arms it reflects amazing flower like patterns, a huge illuminated staircase filling the entire width of the stage which everyone taps down and up, and gorgeous costumes and the result is musical heaven. Shuffle off, not to Buffalo, but to Drury Lane to enjoy the beat of those dancing feet.