42nd Street – Broadway in our own backyard

by Janet Grant
Tri-City Voice – August 6, 2007

These days the lullaby of old Broadway positively resonates off the stage of Ohlone College Jackson Theatre. Under the brilliant direction of Lori Stokes, the constantly amazing youth company of StarStruck Theatre has done it yet again. Opening night of 42nd Street was an absolute fun-filled night of visual and audial delight.

42nd Street has all the glamour and glitz of the old 1930’s musicals. If you love Broadway, this production of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s 1980 Tony Award winning musical will knock your socks off. The energy of StarStruck’s young cast coupled with Henry Warren and Al Dubin’s toe-tapping musical score offers a complete entertainment package that is simply grand, grand, grand!

Of high points, there were many. From the time the curtain first rises on the dancing feet of the chorus line to the echo of the title number, you are never disappointed. Choreography by Becky Peretti and Jeanne Batacan-Harper was spectacular. Only one word comes to mind when describing the tap dancing numbers – WOW!

Of course the lively musical score under the expert direction of Nancy Godfrey had me still singing those familiar tunes like The Lullaby of Broadway, We’re in the Money, and Shuffle off to Buffalo, far into the night.

Costume Design by Vicki Boomer was as usual, a colorful feast for the senses. And who isn’t impressed by a line of male dancers in top-hat and tails?

Set design by Stephen C. Wathen was inspired. The large, iconic figure of the “Pretty Lady” drew you into the musical within the musical as did the representation of bustling Broadway and 42nd Street.

The highest praise of course must be reserved for those incredible actors and ensemble members whose talents are just astounding. When difficult dance routines are made to look easy onstage, you know that is the hallmark of hard work and skill. To paraphrase a line from the play, “They went out there as youngsters, and came back as stars.”

42nd Street is a musical about dreams and the love of theatre. The plot centers on small town girl Peggy Sawyer with big dreams of dancing in a Broadway show. Her spectacular tapping feet catch the attention of leading man Billy Lawlor and even the writer, Mr. Julian Marsh. When Peggy is cast in the chorus of “Pretty Lady”, she soon emerges as the best dancer on the line. When she inadvertently causes the star of the show to fall and break her ankle, she is fired by Julian. Without the star, the show is in danger of being cancelled. The cast however, knows that Peggy can pull off the starring role with her talents and set about convincing Julian. Julian goes after Peggy to beg her to come back to the show as the new leading lady. Of course, Peggy saves the show and emerges as a new star.

Juliane Godfrey was wonderful as Peggy Sawyer. Her role as ingenue seemed tailor-made. Miss Godfrey’s tap-dancing was electric and her comedic timing was spot on, especially when being taught by Julian on how to act the role of a woman in love.

Bohn Kerns in the role of larger-than-life, passionate but complex Julian Marsh was masterfully portrayed. Mr. Kern’s wonderful baritone voice was also quite compelling in his renditions of Lullaby of Broadway and 42nd Street.

You had to feel just a little sorry for Dorothy Brock portrayed ably by Beatrice Crosbie. Once a star, the diva was now outshined by a younger more talented rising star. However, Ms. Crosbie’s heartfelt crooning of the romantic ballad, I Only Have Eyes For You was one of the most beautiful numbers in the show.

Drew Williams’ enthusiastic portrayal of Billy Lawlor was refreshing. There was a nice chemistry between his Billy and Ms. Godfrey’s Peggy. Mr. Williams also had his share of really good tunes nicely done, including I Only Have Eyes for You and Dames.

Kimberly Chatterjee brought a nice bit of humor to her role as Maggie Jones aiding Peggy toward her destiny of stardom. And Kyle Burgess played the role of Pat Denning with a laid back ease, making a nice counterpoint to Dorothy’s passionate outbursts.

During a time when the economy is sagging, gasoline prices are skyrocketing, and the day’s news is often full of doom and gloom, StarStruck’s lively production full of extravagant dance numbers and snappy tunes can bring a smile to your face and a dance to your step. Do yourself a favor, go to the Jackson Theatre and…

“Come and meet those dancing feet,
On the avenue I’m taking you to,
Forty-Second Street.”

Performance dates:

Thursday, Aug 7, 14
Friday, Aug 8, 15
Saturday Aug 9, 16
8 p.m.

Sunday, Aug 10
2 p.m.

Saturday, Aug 16 (ASL Interpreted Performance)
2 p.m.

Ohlone College, Smith Center in the Jackson Theatre
43600 Mission Blvd., Fremont.
(510) 659-1319

Adults: $222
Seniors/students: $20
Children 12 & under: $18