by Bradford Ropes
by Rian James, James Seymour, and Whitney Bolton
|Premiere||August 25, 1980|
Winter Garden Theatre, New York City
42nd Street is a musical with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren. The 1980 Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Musical and became a long-running hit. 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.
Based on the 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and the subsequent 1933 Hollywood film adaptation, the backstage musical show focuses on the efforts of famed dictatorial Great White Way director Julian Marsh to mount a successful stage production of a musical extravaganza at the height of the Great Depression.
The show is a jukebox musical of sorts, in that, in addition to songs from the 1933 film 42nd Street, it includes songs that Dubin and Warren wrote for many other films at around the same time, including Gold Diggers of 1933, Roman Scandals, Dames, Gold Diggers of 1935, Go into Your Dance, Gold Diggers of 1937 and The Singing Marine. It also includes "There's a Sunny Side to Every Situation", written by Warren and Johnny Mercer for Hard to Get. A 2017 revival added the song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", written by Warren and Dubin for Moulin Rouge.
Producer David Merrick "took a huge gamble with his $3 million production based on the 1933 Warner Brothers film musical", as "only one other show had made the transfer from original movie musical to the stage — Gigi, a flop in 1974." He felt audiences once again were ready to embrace the nostalgia craze started by the successful revivals of No, No, Nanette, Irene, and his own Very Good Eddie several years earlier, and augmented the familiar songs from the film's soundtrack with a liberal dose of popular tunes from the Dubin-Warren catalog. According to theater historian John Kenrick, "When the curtain slowly rose to reveal forty pairs of tap-dancing feet, the star-studded opening night audience at the Winter Garden cheered...Champion followed this number with a series of tap-infused extravaganzas larger and more polished than anything Broadway really had in the 1930s."
In June 1980, the musical premiered in out-of-town tryouts at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The musical opened on Broadway on August 25, 1980, at the Winter Garden Theatre, and then moved to the Majestic and finally to the St. James, closing on January 8, 1989, after 3,486 performances and 6 previews. The production was directed by Gower Champion. It was produced by David Merrick and featured orchestrations by Phillip J. Lang. The original cast included Jerry Orbach as Julian Marsh, Tammy Grimes as Dorothy Brock, Wanda Richert as Peggy Sawyer, and Lee Roy Reams as Billy Lawlor. Replacements later in the run included Barry Nelson and Don Chastain and Jamie Ross who played Julian for the last three years of its Broadway run, Elizabeth Allen, Dolores Gray and Millicent Martin as Dorothy, and Lisa Brown and Karen Ziemba as Peggy. (Karen Prunzik, who originated the role of Anytime Annie, briefly played the role of Peggy when Wanda Richert became ill and her understudy abruptly quit the show.) The show's designers, Robin Wagner (sets), Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes), and Tharon Musser (lights) were the same team who had designed the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line. The original Broadway production is the 15th longest running show in Broadway history, as of July 28, 2019.
However, the opening night triumph was overshadowed by tragedy. Following a lengthy standing ovation, Merrick went onstage and stated, "This is tragic...Gower Champion died this afternoon." He went on to explain that Champion died hours before the performance, "when he said that Mr. Champion had died, there were gasps and screams." The producer had told only Bramble of Champion's death and managed to keep the news a secret from the cast (including Richert, the director's girlfriend), crew, and the public prior to his announcement. 42nd Street proved to be not only Champion's last show but Merrick's final success. Merrick lived until 2000, but, as described by Anthony Bianco, 42nd Street "was his last big hit, his swan song."
The West End production opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on August 8, 1984, starring James Laurenson as Julian Marsh, Georgia Brown as Dorothy Brock, Clare Leach as Peggy Sawyer, Michael Howe as Billy Lawler and Margaret Courtenay as Maggie Jones. Frankie Vaughn later took over as Julian Marsh, with Shani Wallis as Dorothy Brock and Maxine Audley as Maggie Jones. The career of teenaged Catherine Zeta-Jones, a chorus member in the 1984 West End production, was launched when a vacation and an illness felled both the actress portraying Peggy Sawyer and her understudy when one of the producers happened to be in the audience. Zeta-Jones filled in and was impressive enough to be cast permanently in the role shortly afterward. The Production closed on 7, January 1989 after nearly 5 years.
The Sydney production of 42nd Street opened on June 2, 1989 at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney. It closed July 28, 1990. The show starred Barry Quin as Julian Marsh, Nancye Hayes as Dorothy Brock, Leonie Paige as Peggy Sawyer, Todd McKenney as Billy Lawler and Toni Lamond as Maggie Jones, with Dein Perry as Andy Lee.
After the closure of the resident Theatre Royal Drury Lane production, the show should see a return engagement at the Dominion Theatre for a limited run between February 27 to April 20, 1991. Most notably the production featured Richard Armitage who was apart of the chorus.
A new production was staged for the Chichester Festival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in summer 2011. It was directed by Paul Kerryson with new choreography by Andrew Wright and starred Kathryn Evans as Dorothy and Tim Flavin as Julian. This production transferred to Curve in Leicester for the Christmas 2011 season (breaking all previous box office records for the theatre). Tim Flavin reprised his role, Ria Jones played Dorothy and Daisy Maywood portrayed Peggy.
The limited-run production at the Dominion Theatre toured the UK starring Bonnie Langford as Peggy. Three more UK Touring productions were produced by UK Productions in 1997, 1999 and 2000. Gemma Craven starred as Dorothy in the 1997 tour, Ruth Madoc starred as Dorothy in the 1999 and 2000 productions and James Smillie starred as Julian Marsh in all three productions. The 2001 production, by UK Productions, toured the UK in 2007. The cast included Paul Nicholas as Julian for the first part of the tour, later replaced by Dave Willetts, Julia J. Nagle as Dorothy, Jessica Punch as Peggy, Graham Hoadly as Bert Barry, Shirley Jameson as Maggie Jones and Ashley Nottingham as Billy. UK Productions mounted a second UK tour of the show in 2012 with Dave Willetts reprising the role of Julian, Marti Webb playing Dorothy, Graham Hoadly as Bert Barry, Carol Ball as Maggie Jones and Mark Bramble directing.
Bramble revised the book for and directed the Broadway revival, with choreography by Randy Skinner (dance assistant for the original production). It opened, after 31 previews, on May 2, 2001, at the Foxwoods Theatre (formerly the Ford Center for the Performing Arts), where it ran for 1,524 performances. The cast included Michael Cumpsty as Julian, Christine Ebersole as Dorothy, Kate Levering as Peggy, and David Elder as Billy. Meredith Patterson, who made her Broadway musical debut in the chorus and was the understudy for the role of Peggy Sawyer, took over the role in August 2001. Todd Lattimore, who had been a swing and understudy, took the role of Billy. Other notable replacements included Patrick Cassidy and Tom Wopat as Julian and Shirley Jones and Beth Leavel as Dorothy.
An Asia tour of the Broadway revival played major venues throughout China and South Korea, with an English–speaking company directed by Mark Bramble. The cast included Paul Gregory Nelson as Julian, Natalie Buster as Dorothy, Kristen Martin as Peggy, and Charles MacEachern as Billy.
A slightly updated version of the 2001 revival, revised and directed by Mark Bramble and choreographed by Randy Skinner, began a United States tour in September 2015, opening in Salt Lake City, Utah on 22 September 2015. Matthew J. Taylor played Julian Marsh, Caitlin Ehlinger played Peggy Sawyer, and Blake Standik played Billy Lawlor.
West End Revival
A slightly revised version of the 2001 Broadway revival began a West End revival with previews on March 20, 2017, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where the show had its original London production, with an official opening night on April 4. Mark Bramble once again directed and Randy Skinner choreographed. The cast included Sheena Easton in her West End debut as Dorothy Brock, Clare Halse as Peggy Sawyer, Stuart Neal as Billy Lawlor and Tom Lister as Julian Marsh. Bruce Montague who previously starred in the UK Tour reprised his role. Graeme Henderson who previously played the role of Billy Lawlor in the original West End production and Andy in a UK Tour also reprised his role as Andy. The opening night was attended by The Duchess of Cambridge in her role as Royal Patron of the East Anglia Children's Hospices (EACH). On March 19, 2018, Lulu took over from Easton as Dorothy Brock for a 16-week tenure, and Ashley Day took over from Neal as Billy Lawlor, with Lister and Halse remaining in the show. Steph Parry - who in March 2018 joined 42nd Street as understudy for the roles of Dorothy Brock and Maggie Jones - took over from Lulu as Dorothy Brock on July 9, 2018. Bonnie Langford who played the role of Peggy in a previous UK Tour took over as Dorothy Brock on September 3, 2018, until the show closed on January 5, 2019.
Ogunquit Playhouse's production began previews on June 19, 2019, with the official opening on June 21, 2019. Randy Skinner directed and choreographed as it was the first major production since Bramble's passing in February 2019. The cast included Rachel York in a return to the Ogunquit Playhouse stage as Dorothy Brock, Sally Struthers as Maggie Jones, Jessica Wockenfuss as Peggy Sawyer, Steve Blanchard as Julian Marsh and Con O'Shea Creal as Billy Lawlor. The production was assistant-choreographed by Sara Brians who made her Broadway debut with the 2001 revival, and utilized the set and costumes from the 2017 West End revival.
- Act I
Auditions for 1933's newest show, Pretty Lady, are nearly over when Peggy Sawyer, fresh off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania, arrives in New York City with valise in hand. Billy Lawlor, already cast as one of the juvenile leads, notices her and hopes to charm her into accepting a date with him ("Young and Healthy"). He informs her she has missed the audition but he can help her bypass that process, but choreographer Andy Lee has no time for Billy's latest conquest and tells her, "Amscray, toots." Embarrassed and flustered, she rushes off, only to run into director Julian Marsh. One-time star Dorothy Brock, indignant at being asked to audition for a role, is reassured by co-writer and producer Bert Barry that he merely wants to make sure the songs are in her key ("Shadow Waltz"). Despite feeling she is a prima donna past her prime, Marsh agrees to cast her in order to get financial backing from her wealthy beau, Abner Dillon. Outside the theatre, co-writer and producer Maggie Jones and chorus girls Ann "Anytime Annie" Reilly, Phyllis Dale, and Lorraine Flemming take pity on Peggy and invite her to join them for lunch and some advice. They encourage her to show them a dance routine that is witnessed by Julian, who decides there might be room for one more chorus girl after all ("Go Into Your Dance").
Dorothy and Billy rehearse a kissing scene, but Abner refuses to put money into a show where he has to watch Dorothy kiss someone else. The kiss is removed from Pretty Lady ("You're Getting to be a Habit With Me"). Peggy faints and is taken to Dorothy's dressing room. Pat Denning (Dorothy’s secret long term boyfriend and former vaudeville partner) is there and tries to help her. Dorothy finds them there together and, assuming they are having an affair, blows up at them. Julian overhears the argument and, fearing that Abner will pull funding for the show, decides to end the affair between them. A phone call to an unsavory acquaintance brings Pat a visit from a couple of thugs who convince him to break it off with her. The show's cast then departs to Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, for the out-of-town tryout ("Getting Out of Town").
The scenery and costumes will not arrive on time, but the cast begins their dress rehearsal regardless ("Dames/Keep Young and Beautiful/Dames (Reprise)"). Peggy asks Julian if he will be attending a planned party, and he accepts because he is attracted to her. At the party, a drunk Dorothy, who misses Pat, tells Abner she was only with him because of his money and breaks up with him. Abner wants to close the show, but he is convinced to keep it running. Dorothy finds Pat, but he is once again driven off by Julian at the hands of the gangsters. Peggy tries to warn Pat, and Dorothy catches them together, becoming greatly upset("I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams").
"Pretty Lady" finally opens ("We're in the Money"), but someone bumps into Peggy, which causes her to knock over Dorothy. When Dorothy cannot get up, an angered Julian immediately fires Peggy, and tells the audience that the show is canceled.
- Act II
Dorothy's ankle is broken, and the show may close, but the chorus kids will not give up ("Sunny Side to Every Situation"). The chorus kids, certain Peggy could fill the lead role, find Julian and tell him that she's a fresh young face who can sing and dance circles around Dorothy. He decides it is worth a shot and rushes off to the train station to catch her before she departs. At Philadelphia's Broad Street Station, Julian apologizes to Peggy and asks her to stay and star in the show, but she responds that she has had enough of show business and wants to go home to Allentown. Dumbfounded, he tries to coax her with the words "Come on along and listen to the lullaby of Broadway..." After the cast joins him in the serenade, she decides to accept his offer ("Lullaby of Broadway"). Forced to learn the part in two days, Peggy is about to mentally collapse when Dorothy, who has been watching the rehearsals, unexpectedly visits her and realizes that beneath her nervous exterior, Peggy is good, "maybe even better than I would have been." She even offers a little friendly advice on how to perform the last song, "About a Quarter to Nine."
It's time for the curtain to rise again ("Shuffle Off to Buffalo"). The opening night curtain is about to rise when Julian, now completely in love with Peggy, stops by for a last minute lip-lock and pep talk in which he utters the now iconic line, "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" The show is a huge success sure to catapult her into stardom ("42nd Street"). In addition, although she is invited to and expected to attend the official opening night party, she decides to go to the chorus one instead. Julian is left alone onstage with only a single ghost light casting his huge shadow on the back wall. He quietly begins to sing, "Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue I'm taking you to...42nd Street" ("42nd Street (Reprise)").
Source: Tams-Witmark Synopsis
- Peggy Sawyer – Nervous but enthusiastic new chorus girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
- Billy Lawlor – Leading tenor in Pretty Lady.
- Dorothy Brock – Past her prime Prima Donna, renowned for inability to dance.
- Julian Marsh – Famous, but notorious, director.
- Maggie Jones – Co-writer and producer of Pretty Lady.
- Bert Barry – Co-writer and producer of Pretty Lady.
- Andy Lee – Choreographer of Pretty Lady.
- Pat Denning – Dorothy's former vaudeville partner and romantic interest.
- Abner Dillon – Producer of Pretty Lady and Dorothy's "Sugar Daddy."
- Mac – Stage Manager of Pretty Lady.
- Ann “Anytime Annie” Reilly, Lorraine Flemming, Phyllis Dale, and Gladys – Experienced chorus girls who help Peggy.
- Oscar – Onstage rehearsal pianist for the show Pretty Lady.
|Théâtre du Châtelet
|Peggy Sawyer||Wanda Richert||Nana Visitor||Clare Leach||Kate Levering||Catherine Wreford||Lauren Hall||Daisy Maywood||Monique Young||Clare Halse||Jessica Wockenfuss|
|Billy Lawlor||Lee Roy Reams||Lee Roy Reams||Michael Howe||David Elder||Robert Spring||Oliver Brenin||Francis Haugen||Dan Burton||Stuart Neal||Con O’Shea-Creal|
|Dorothy Brock||Tammy Grimes||Millicent Martin||Georgia Brown||Christine Ebersole||Blair Ross||Kathryn Evans||Ria Jones||Sheena Easton||Rachel York|
|Julian Marsh||Jerry Orbach||Jon Cypher||James Laurenson||Michael Cumpsty||Patrick Ryan Sullivan||Tim Flavin||Alexander Hanson||Tom Lister||Steve Blanchard|
|Maggie Jones||Carole Cook||Margaret Courtenay||Mary Testa||Patti Mariano||Louise Plowright||Geraldine Fitzgerald||Jennie Dale||Jasna Ivir||Sally Struthers|
|Bert Barry||Joseph Bova||Matthew Tobin||Hugh Futcher||Jonathan Freeman||Frank Root||Christopher Howell||Ross Finnie||Carl Sanderson||Christopher Howell||Kilty Reidy|
|Andy Lee||Danny Carroll||James Dybas||Maurice Lane||Michael Arnold||Dexter Jones||Alan Burkitt||Stephane Anelli||Graeme Henderson||Jake Weinstein|
|Pat Denning||James Congdon||Gary Holcombe||Bob Sessions||Richard Muenz||Daren Kelly||Steven Houghton||Stuart Ramsey||Matthew McKenna||Norman Bowman||Ryan K. Bailer|
|Abner Dillon||Don Crabtree||Iggie Wolfington||Ralph Lawton||Michael McCarty||Paul Ainsley||Steve Fortune||Teddy Kempner||Bruce Montague||Cliff Bemis|
|Mac||Stan Page||Lonnie Burr||Brent Verdon||Allen Fitzpatrick||Michael Fitzpatrick||David Lucas||Scott Emerson||Mark McKerracher|
|Ann “Anytime Annie” Reilly||Karen Pruczik||Rose Scudder||Carol Ball||Mylinda Hill||Alana Salvatore||Lisa Donmall Reeve||Emma Kate Nelson||Emma Caffrey||Megan McLaughlin|
|Lorraine Flemming||Ginny King||Marla Singer||Felicity Lee||Megan Sikora||Kristen Gaetz||Pippa Raine||Ebony Molina||Charlie Allen||Ella Martine||Melissa Schott|
|Phyllis Dale||Jeri Kansas||Nancy Bickel||Catherine Terry||Catherine Wreford||Angela Kahle||Kate Nelson||Lisa Ritchie||Chantel Bellew||Clare Rickard||Lily Lewis|
|Oscar||Robert Colston||Bob Gorman||Art Day||Billy Stritch||Tom Judson||Peter McCarthy||Barnaby Thompson||Paul Knight|
*Not included on the original cast recording
**Not featured in the original production
† In the 2001 revival, "I Only Have Eyes for You" directly follows "We're in the Money"
‡ In the 2017 West End revival, "Young and Healthy" was performed before "Shadow Waltz."
Awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
|1981||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Lee Roy Reams||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Gower Champion||Won|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Theoni V. Aldredge||Won|
|Theatre World Award||Wanda Richert||Won|||
|Tony Award||Best Musical||Won|||
|Best Book of a Musical||Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical||Lee Roy Reams||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Wanda Richert||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Gower Champion||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Theoni V. Aldredge||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Tharon Musser||Nominated|
Original London production
|1984||Evening Standard Award||Best Musical||Won|||
|Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Won|||
|Actress of the Year in a Musical||Clare Leach||Nominated|
2001 Broadway revival
|2001||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Won|||
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Christine Ebersole||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreography||Randy Skinner||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design||Douglas W. Schmidt||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Roger Kirk||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Revival of a Musical||Won|||
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Christine Ebersole||Won|
|Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical||Kate Levering||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Mark Bramble||Nominated|
|Best Choreography||Randy Skinner||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design||Douglas W. Schmidt||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Roger Kirk||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design||Paul Gallo||Nominated|
2017 West End revival
|2018||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Musical Revival||Nominated|||
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Randy Skinner||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Roger Kirk||Nominated|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 42nd Street (musical).|
- Synopsis and other information from the Musical Heaven website
- Plot summary and character descriptions
- Production shots of the 2017 London production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
- Profile of the show & audition suggestions
- 42nd Street at the Internet Broadway Database
- Radio interview with Wanda Richert by Doug Miles WSLR
- 42nd Street music tracks on Masterworks Broadway