What do you get if you cross Les Dennis, Faye from Steps and the Great Depression of 1930s America? Why, the latest production of 42nd Street, the musical of the movie of the book, coming to Cardiff this month. And what do you get if you add Hari Berrow to the equation? This article you’re about to read, that’s what.
Since its Broadway debut in 1980, 42nd Street has captured the hearts and imaginations of audiences. Pulling inspiration from both Bradford Ropes’ 1932 novel and its hot-footed 1933 film adaptation, the musical offers a unique insight into how theatre functioned (or failed to function) at the height of America’s Great Depression. Where the book was a slightly darker, comic analysis of a grimy and unfair world, the movie is, in many ways, a testament to the hardiness of American artists and the importance of joy in the darkest of times. This is the energy that the stage musical has brought back to audiences over and over again.
Famed for its iconic dance routines, this production of 42nd Street looks to be no exception in that regard with Olivier-award winner Bill Deamer bringing his unique flair to the show. Best known for his award-winning choreography for Top Hat in 2013, Deamer also choreographed on the National Theatre’s productions of Follies and recent Welsh revival The Corn Is Green. Deamer’s expertise is in the dance style of Fred Astaire – that paired with the musicals incorporation of many famous songs from 1930s Hollywood, will mean fans of the golden age will have plenty to look forward to in this production.
Royal Shakespeare Company associate artist Robert Jones will also be bringing his vision to the show’s design. Alongside many incredible productions for the RSC, Jones was also set designer on the iconic 2011 remount of The Wizard Of Oz, and the beautiful and eerie design for the recent remound of Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons at the Harold Pinter theatre earlier this year.
Faye Tozer takes to the stage as Maggie Jones, the co-writer and producer of Pretty Lady – the show at the centre of 42nd Street’s narrative that hangs in the balance as stakeholders, cast members and crew threaten to pull out left, right and centre. Best known as a member of Steps, Tozer has also enjoyed a prolific career in musical theatre, debuting in Lloyd-Webber’s Tell Me On A Sunday in 2004. Tozer enjoys that, even after all these years, she’s still able to challenge people’s expectations of her. “It’s been so wonderful to be somebody who surprises audience members who might have a preconceived idea of me,” she says; “I actually wanted to get into musical theatre from a really young age. It was amazing having Steps come first, and then having a wonderful life in musical theatre as well.”
Les Dennis also takes to the stage in the role of Bert Barry, Pretty Lady’s hilarious producer. Tozer is thrilled to be working with Dennis, having worked with him briefly once before. “Les and I actually have a little bit of history via Steps – he came and did a sketch for us for [the group’s TV movie from 2000] Steps Into Summer. Over the years I’ve bumped into him at gameshows and things but what a joy to be sharing the stage with him, and what an absolute pro he is!”
Winning both a Tony and an Olivier for its debut productions in New York and London, 42nd Street is one of musical theatre’s most underrated treasures. While a revival in the West End, with a different production team, ran briefly between 2017 and 2019, this tour may be audiences’ last opportunity to enjoy the musical for some time. With an incredible backstage team and a cast of fantastic performers, this tour is not one to miss.
42nd Street, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Mon 14-Sat 19 Aug.
Tickets: £18-£85. Info: here
words HARI BERROW