Quote of the Day: I also felt strongly that the streets of New York, 42nd Street in particular, are always thrumming with music and rhythm, which is why it was important that the musicians in this show are onstage. They are an onstage embodiment of the rich sound of the city emanating from the streets. from an interview with Director Michael Heitzman regarding his vision for this remastered production of the iconic 42 Street musical with the Ordway’s Artistic Director Rod Kaats (courtesy of the Ordway’s program). This production is phenomenal. Orchestrations and Arrangements by Everett Bradley. Raymond Berg is the Conductor along with many fine musicians. I loved seeing them up on stage, on the second tier of Paul Tate DePoo’s incredible multi-level set.

Cast of 42nd Street at the Ordway Performing Arts Center in St. Paul, MN. Photo by Paul Tate dePoo III.

I was in the audience for the official opening night of the Ordway’s original production of 42 Street, along with other media, friends, family, and fans of the music, its story, and all those rhythms. The tap dancing is spectacular, absolutely breathtaking. The songs are wonderful. Tamara Tunie plays Dorothy Brock, the “star” of the show within a show, and one of the stars of this show. She has a line about “making the audience come to you” when you sing. And, she certainly does. She has a gorgeous, full voice that hits all those jazzy notes that float through you like waves. I was swept away, and longing for more of her beautiful songs. 

Jarrod Emick plays Julian Marsh, the director of the show within a show called “Pretty Lady.” He’s kind of a hard nosed leader, quick to criticize and fire someone for a miss-step. He has to woo Dorothy, even while thinking she might be passed her prime, into doing the show because she is backed by sugar daddy Abner Dillon (T. Mychael Rambo). The show is set in the 1930’s Depression Era, so the stakes are even higher. No show, no work, and all the actors are on the street and will have to join the bread lines. Jarrod Emick captures the gruffness of Julian Marsh while charming us, and newbie Peggy Sawyer. You see where this might be going.

Kimberly Immanuel and Phillip Attmore in 42nd Street. Photo by Paul Tate dePoo III.

It doesn’t turn into a sappy romance, or a producer seducing young ingenue, at least not in this version. (Confession: I haven’t seen the original movie or stage adaptation. I was there as a first-time 42 Street audience.) And, I’m glad it wasn’t all about the romance. Peggy has a voice. Sure, she’s young and innocent. She’s also uber-talented, the character and Kimberly Immanuel who plays her. I mean, she’s got it all. She can sing. She can dance. She taps like its part of her soul, and she wins you over with her grit, charm, and moxie.

Tyler Michaels King plays Bert, the acrobatic, witty, young man who is kind of like the Stage Manager of the “Pretty Lady” show. This part really highlights Tyler’s talents. I’ve enjoyed his performances in everything that I’ve seen in the Twin Cities, from the forever boy Peter Pan to the edgy Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theater Latte’ Da this past year. The man is also uber-talented! 

The Ordway’s production of 42nd Street is populated by much local talent and a few with national credits. It’s an amazing mix of people from various cultural backgrounds and professional experience. The cast truly looks like a representation of all the different kinds of people you’d see on the streets of New York, or any city in America. The ensemble is so strong. I’ve seen many shows in the Twin Cities and a couple in New York on Broadway, and this production of 42nd Street was one of the most spectacular. 

The cast of 42nd Street. Photo by Paul Tate dePoo III.

Of course, it’s the tap dancing that makes this a stand out show. Gower Champion choreographed the original stage adaptation in 1980. Jared Grimes gives it a fresh beat. We were all blown away by the energy, rhythms, and moves of the dancers. Add to that some amazing multi-level staging, mind-blowing lighting (Mike Baldassari), and a magnificent orchestra on stage, and you can’t find anything better. Costumes by Emilio Sosa were also stunning, the color pallet was wide, yet cohesive, adding to the defining of the characters and scenes. The entire show is a feast of an artistic experience. The way they closed Act One with “I’m in the Money” almost brought us to a standing ovation!

You can this remastered version of 42nd Street at The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN through August 11, 2019. You don’t want to miss this one!

I wish I could go again and sit in the front row and catch coins during the “I’m in the Money” dance. Or, sit right in the middle and take it all in, seeing things I didn’t catch the first time, and marveling at the ones that I did and relish seeing them again. I’d even go a third time and sit in the front row of the balcony where no one can obstruct my view to see the grand and glorious staging, experience the lighting and the heart-pounding rhythms of the choreography and sit at eye level with the marvelous musicians and be swept away again and again by the beauty of this production. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you dance? Can you tap? What new artistic experience are you looking for?