Review: Superbly slick 42nd Street at Riverhead Theatre

When energy, adrenaline and talent come together, the results are often incredible and the power that all three produce is something extraordinary. But finding those three elements in a perfect balance is somewhat a rarity in amateur theatre. So imagine my shock when I saw these amplified by several thousand in undoubtedly the greatest musical to have graced the Riverhead Theatre’s stage.

42nd Street is a musical with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin, and music by Harry Warren, the composer of more than 800 songs over four decades.

The show was produced in London in 1984 (winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical) and its 2001 Broadway revival won the Tony for Best Revival. Now, Sue Hamilton brings Lincolnshire a 2013 revival and it most definitely maintains its award-winning ethos.

Naming individuals would be an impossible task - in an ambitiously large cast there is not a single weak link. Each and every cast member has worked relentlessly hard to master tap routines, songs, harmonies and, let’s not forget, the demanding costume changes! Despite the broad New York accents, diction is rarely lost and facial expressions show how well the characters have been established.

It’s difficult to remember that these people are simply volunteers showcasing their hobby.

The most complex and fairly demanding of sets, crafted with excellence, make a refreshing appearance. Changes are relatively smooth and generally blend into the action of each scene, maintaining the immersion in the ‘Pretty Lady’ rehearsals.

Wigs are authentic and truly gorgeous, lighting is creatively spectacular, sound is spot-on and the props fit the period with success. Visually, 42nd Street is simply stunning.

Costumes are not only gorgeous, but they’re sparkly and mind-blowingly diverse, highlighting the time, effort and dedication that has undoubtedly gone in to producing them.

Special recognition must also go to the musicians - a diverse band spanning generations, consisting of keys, woodwind, brass, bass and percussion, with each musician expertly bringing Harry Warren’s score to life.

Highly talented Matthew Jeffrey also makes a charming contribution as the on-stage pianist.

Highlights include the powerful opening Audition, colourful Dames, expertly choreographed We’re In The Money, well harmonised Lullaby of Broadway, fun Shuffle Off To Buffalo and the show stealing 42nd Street.

Musicals have always been a strength of Louth Playgoers, but the barrier has been well and truly raised. Whilst a handful of chorus members need to practise their smiles, this could hit the West End and I doubt that a soul would query the standard.

This is a pitch-perfect, superbly slick extraordinaire. Well done to Sue Hamilton and all involved.

Review by Stuart Spendlow.