It has been nearly 40 years since 42nd Street won the Tony for best musical in 1981, but the revivals keep coming. Go to the Upper Darby Summer Stage and see why "those dancing feet" cannot keep still. Upper Darby Summer Stage is a find. Now in its 43rd year, it serves the entire Delaware Valley, with 800 students ages 10-28 learning from theater professionals. Many go on to professional theater (Tina Fey is an alum). Its home is a splendid, acoustically true amphitheater.
Sure, 42nd Street has that affecting story line – but the big excitement comes from songs that mushroom into breathtaking dance numbers (kudos to choreographers Kevin Dietzler and Devon Sinclair), an electric pageant of song and dance. The brassy orchestra, under music director Gina Giachero, is heard but not seen. (Why get in the way of this spectacle?) Director Brian Walsh uses an ensemble of 50 leggy chorines to back up a dozen lead actors. Although the show is set in the '30s, the choreography is distinctly modern.
42nd Street was first a Hollywood movie (1933), a Depression-era let's-cheer-them-up tale about the rise of penniless performers. David Merrick reimagined it for the theater in 1980, using the songbook of Harry Warren and Al Dubin. In the hands of Upper Darby's fine young performers, the characters are stock but not clichéd.
Meghan Dietzler plays peppy towhead Peggy Sawyer, a young girl from Allentown who travels to the Big Apple with dreams of stardom. As soon as she arrives, a thief snatches her valise and choreographer/dancer Andy Lee (Jason Severino) tells her, "Amscray, toots." Welcome to Broadway, kid!
Peggy tussles with Dorothy Brock (played by Rachel Medori), an aging, dance-challenged prima donna who belts out the more melancholy songs. Chris Monaco is outstanding as Julian Marsh, the archetypal bossy director. Danny Walsh plays singer/dancer Billy Lawlor. Does a love triangle develop? Does Peggy make it to the top?
All night, songs like "There's a Sunny Side to Ev'ry Situation" (Warren and Johnny Mercer) and "Lullaby of Broadway" swell into massive productions. In the finale, a grand reprise of "42nd Street" (where "the underworld can meet the elite"), a balletic pickpocket (Bryant Carter) stalks through the syncopated tap of 50 colorfully costumed hoofers. The entire number earned a huge ovation.
What would cost hundreds on Broadway is on view here for bargain-basement prices. My one complaint is that 42nd Street will run only through next weekend.