CdA’s ’42nd Street’ an unabashed, old-fashioned delight

CdA’s ’42nd Street’ an unabashed, old-fashioned delight

Jim Kershner Staff writer

CdA’s ’42nd Street’ an unabashed, old-fashioned delight Friday night, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, Schuler Auditorium, North Idaho College

Review

“42nd Street” Friday night, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, Schuler Auditorium, North Idaho College

By Jim Kershner

Staff writer

“42nd Street” is exactly the kind of show the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre does best.

This thoroughly lovable ’30s backstage musical comedy features plenty of big show-stopping numbers, the better to show off the disciplined cast of seasoned pros and energetic young talent. It has plenty of hummable tunes – “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “I Only Have Eyes for You” – rendered in a brassy style by the large pit orchestra.

Most of all, this show is gloriously and shamelessly old- fashioned, in the best sense of the term.

“42nd Street” comes from the Busby Berkeley-MGM musical tradition, with plenty of leggy showgirls, outrageous costumes, wise-guy remarks and elaborate tap-dance numbers. All of these things play directly to the strengths of the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, the area’s major summer stock company.

The show is about a lavishly talented bunch of “kids” and vets, looking for a hit. The Carrousel Players of the CDA Summer Theatre are a lot like ’em – a lavishly talented bunch of kids and vets who know how to turn a show like this into a big hit.

So many elements come together nicely, I don’t have room here to go into them all. However, two areas in particular contribute hugely to the show’s success. The first is the casting of the leading roles.

We’ve seen Todd Hermanson in plenty of roles here, but never has he been so ideally cast. His Julian Marsh is bold and bluff, a kind of benevolent dictator of the stage. Yet he’s also an exasperated dictator, constantly patting his pocket for a match that he never locates. He has a way of pausing deliciously before his exhortations, as in, “Let’s (finger in air) … go!”

And Meghan Bayha is a true discovery as the willowy Peggy Sawyer. This role has to be a bit daunting, because it all depends on the audience believing one thing: That Peggy is clearly more talented than every other hoofer out there. In one number, she must essentially blow the other dancers off the stage. Bayha, with her ingenue looks and impossibly long pegs (as they might have said in the ’30s), has the talent to do just that.

Meanwhile, she also plays Peggy as genuinely innocent, naïve and sweet. It’s not easy to be that good and still that humble, but Bayha pulls it off.

The second key element is the quality of the big tap-dance numbers. In several songs, including the title song, the entire stage is filled with an army of tappers. Bayha is a prodigiously talented tapper, but so are many other members of the ensemble. One of them is Cherie Price, who also happens to be the choreographer who designed these numbers.

The supporting cast is, once again, top-notch. Price is especially good as songwriter Maggie Jones and Julie Powell is wonderfully over the top as the imperious star, Dorothy Brock. Steven Dahlke as Bert Barry and Christopher Moll as Billy Lawlor are particularly effective.

The pit orchestra always sounds good, but this one, under the direction of Deborah Hansen, made even the overture and the entr’acte sound like an event.

And finally there’s the show itself. It’s filled with colorful ’30s dialogue on the order of “Am-scray, toots.” The major plot questions – Will the show go on? Will Peggy become a star? – are not exactly profound, but we find ourselves caring anyway.

And the Harry Warren-Al Dubin songs effectively evoke a bygone era of Broadway glory.

42nd Street is the New York street that crosses Broadway to form Times Square. “42nd Street,” the musical, has all of the bustle of Times Square, circa 1933.

“42nd Street” continues through July 17. Call (800) 4-CDATIX.

___

Copyright c 2004 The Spokesman-Review

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.