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Review: 42nd Street, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

BIG, bright and bold, the sensational musical within a musical, 42nd Street opened at Southampton Mayflower Theatre last night (Tuesday) for the latest stop in its UK tour.

Bursting with Hollywood dazzle and a sequin-clad array of spectacular dancers, the flamboyant and mesmerising show is directed by Jonathan Church with breathtakingly choreography by Bill Deamer.

Unusually, the show started life as Warner Bros film with choreography by Busby Berkeley, and was reimagined for the stage by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble in 1980 after they watched the 1933 classic.

42ND Street, , Director - Jonathan Church, Choreography - Bill Deamer, Designer - Rob Jones, , 2023, Marlow theatre, Canterbury, Credit: Johan Persson/
42ND Street, , Director - Jonathan Church, Choreography - Bill Deamer, Designer - Rob Jones, , 2023, Marlow theatre, Canterbury, Credit: Johan Persson/

An undeniably uplifting story, watching 42nd Street on stage is one of my very first memories of the theatre, and while my recollection of the storyline blurred a bit with the passage of time, the spectacular dance routines were just as I remembered.

While many musicals are reimagined for a modern era, this colourful production remained true to its origins, with an enchanting story and wonderful cast that had my 12-year-old daughter utterly captivated.

Samantha Womack’s portrayal of ageing stage icon Dorothy Brock was absolutely remarkable, showcasing her powerful voice and demonstrating a commanding stage presence which captivated from the offset. Moving effortlessly between powerful ballads and moments of vulnerability, her characterisation of a stage icon, just past her heyday, was absolutely spot on.

Alongside her, youthful energy, immense talent and optimism were personified by Nicole Lily Baisden, who played the role of Peggy Sawyer. An incredible dancer and exceptional singer, Nicole also oozed the infectious enthusiasm that ensured the whole audience was rooting for her from the start.

Michael Praed in the role of Julian Marsh, the show’s demanding director, was equally impressive. Praed’s deep, resonant voice commanded attention, and his portrayal of Julian’s passion for stage was both intense and authentic.

The entire ensemble, filled with incredibly talented dancers and singers, created a dynamic and visually stunning experience. From tap dancing sequences to large-scale production numbers, the ensemble effortlessly executed the intricate routines, leaving the audience in mesmerised.

The brilliant musical score, featuring iconic numbers such as We’re In the Money and Lullaby of Broadway, was brought to life by the exceptional live orchestra. The glitz and glamour of 1930s New York was further captured with wonderful costume and clever multi-level set designs.

A story about the power of dreams and determination, 42nd Street manages to be highly entertaining as well as visually spectacular, with a stellar class of top-notch performers.

The choreography and dance routines are absolutely first class, the costumes lavish and the scenery brilliantly designed.

If you love a song and dance routine or just want a show that is absolutely certain to lift the spirits, catch it at Southampton Mayflower Theatre this week.

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