I don’t know what it is about tap dancing, but I can rarely get enough. If you share my weakness, then 42nd Street at the IU Auditorium is for you. The show begins, ends and is liberally filled with plenty of syncopated footwork. It doesn’t hurt that the show has a more than serviceable story line, colorful characters and a lot of very funny humor. Some of the songs are "Young and Healthy," "I Only Have Eyes for You," We’re in the Money," "Lullaby of Broadway" and of course "42nd Street."
42nd Street is a show about the stresses, strains, failures and victories in putting on a show. It takes the audience from the casting call through rehearsals, the out of town try-out, and on to the Broadway opening night. The show began energetically with the whole company tapping led by the percussive footwork of Jeffery Williams. Maureen Illmensee and Evan Alboum played the comically mismatched pair of writers. Natalie Buster was alternately attractive, nasty and sympathetic in the difficult role of, Dorothy Brock, the difficult star whose sugar daddy is bankrolling the show. Kyle Massey was the company’s attractive young tenor lead. Mara Davi did indeed grow from mousey auditionee to sparkling star as Peggy Sawyer. Presiding over it all was the commanding director of directors, the outward cynic and the inward optimist Julian Marsh, played by Ron Smith.
The musical staging of 42nd Street is based on the original work of Gower Champion. Although tap is the ruling dance form there are plenty of acrobatics and even a delightful flower ballet on point. Scene follows inventive scene with smooth set changes and ever changing costumes. One that I especially enjoyed was of four of the women dressed as street urchins fishing for a dime with a piece of chewing gum on a string as the prelude to "We’re in the Money." Singing, diction and sound reinforcement were very effective throughout. 42nd Street boasts a full twelve-member orchestra. It was a pleasure to see former IU student Jeff Suzda in the pit playing reeds.
Opening night was a very satisfying evening and the audience responded at the curtain call with a standing ovation. I was a little disappointed at the scarcity of children in the audience. The show does run until ten-forty on a school night, but perhaps an afternoon nap would make up for the sleep deficit. I do warn you though that attendance may lead to a strong demand for tap shoes.
42nd Street plays tonight (and Thursday) at the IU Auditorium. The tapping starts at eight.