18th April 2012
Garrick Playhouse, Altrincham, Manchester
Type of Production
Author: Kevin Proctor
Choreographer: Lorraine Callan
This quintessential ‘backstage’ musical traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy from casting call to opening night.
Peggy, the hopeful small-town girl turned Broadway leading lady played by Charlotte Callan was undoubtedly a talented dancer, her performance was engaging to a degree along with Maria Gooch as Dorothy Brock who were both, by far the two most comfortable people to watch in this production. I particularly enjoyed the change in relationship between the two in the ‘quarter to nine’ scene.
Stuart Harrison’s interpretation of Julian Marsh (the director of the show within the show) lacked stature and failed to excite, each line delivered had the exact same tone and infliction as the last making his performance plain and uninteresting.
The most obscure statement in this show for me was Arthur Hulse’s characterisation of Pat Denning, this suave ‘Pal Joey’ type character was presented like a clown reminding me more of Groucho Marx which just did not work for me on any level!
Direction by Kathleen Valentine was approached with brave risks, she had avoided staging this show to how it is traditionally presented, having the turntable was a nice idea but wasn’t used much for any particular stand out reason other than to spin the cast around, an opportunity for some impressive Busby Berkley moments would’ve worked lovely on it but its purpose was never made clear. Instead of set, we were presented with a series of projected black and white images as backdrops which cost effectively did the job.
The choreography by Lorraine Callan, again was brave in that she didn’t stick to the signature steps associated with this show. All of Lorraine’s dancers had each routine down to perfection making it clean and precise, though it was a shame some of her troupe was missing that Broadway sparkle, a much needed note to perform with their whole body and faces, not just their feet would’ve taken the performances to another level.
For me, the most success for this production came from down in the pit, Ed Nurse’s band kept the show moving and sounded great! Yes, in an ideal world we would’ve loved another 3 or 4 players down there but the 10 of them pulled it off with triumph.
This society is so fortunate to have the facilities of the Garrick Theatre behind them. Many societies within this region would give their right hand to be able to work in such a lovely venue complete with its technical and FOH facilities.
Before watching this show, I would never have said that ‘42nd Street’ could be done without a large budget, this production proved to me that technically, it can still work with a minimal approach.
It is refreshing to see societies taking risky, fresh and experimental interpretations of classic shows which I am a big fan of and on that, I applaud you!