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Aug 15, 2009 - "42nd Street" taps its way into the hearts of musical comedy fans at Reno's Eldorado Hotel Casino
By Jack Neal
“Come on along and listen to the lullaby of Broadway” is exactly what full houses will be doing at Reno’s Eldorado Hotel Casino from now until nearly Halloween. It’s a lullaby that has resonated with audiences since movie-star Ruby Keeler danced her way to stardom in the 1933 Warner Brothers’ movie musical of the same name.
“42nd Street” opened Tuesday (8/4/09) just in time for musical-comedy fans enjoying Reno’s Hot August Nights celebration. The show itself is cause for celebration.
Big, brash and bubbly as choreographer Busy Berkeley’s 1933 “42nd Street” was, it was given an equally big, brash and bubbly Gower Champion makeover in 1980 and played for eight-and-one-half years at New York City’s Winter Garden Theatre.
Now it’s on the road again with a terrific cast of dancers and singers who simply cannot be better. The sets are a bit bus-and-truck thin, but the cast is as tap-dance sharp as the very best Hollywood and Broadway musicals and that makes this cast very sharp indeed.
One might quibble with Steve Steiner’s direction at being somewhat broad, but most audiences know the “42nd street” story so well the musical’s dramatic sense has become more a well-worn comic cliché than cliff-hanging new news.
And that’s the way Steiner directs it.
The interplay between egomaniacal Broadway star Dorothy Brock, self-assured director Julian Marsh, and that darling newcomer to Broadway Peggy Sawyer via a host of terrific Harry Warren and Al Dubin songs and smart-aleck Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart dialog is too much of a grand good thing, that – like the show’s dancing – just allows an audience to wallow in its good fortune at watching such joyous things happen.
It’s the choreography that makes “42nd Street” tick in its fabulous clickety-
clack way. For that we can give a nod to Busby Berkeley for getting it all
started in such a big Times-Square way. Then to Gower Champion for his superb inventions which are being stunningly re-created here by Paula Hammons Sloan.
A splendid actor and good-enough singer to impress, Rutledge Varley (Julian Marsh) is as solid a director as Cecile B. DeMille. Under his whip everyone is ready for their close-up. A superlative dancer and presence, Melinda Vaggione shines and then some as Peggy Sawyer. With a comedic timing that doesn’t miss a beat (or a bet) Heather Brown Varley is lots of fun as Dorothy Brock, the demanding star of “Pretty Lady,” the show’s musical within a musical. As the young chap who’s smitten with Peggy, Andrew Chartier is a lithe and in all ways wonderful Billy Lawlor. The nearly show-stopping Lauren Gemelli is Maggie Jones, “42nd Street’s” red-hot second banana. As Maggie’s sidekick, Andy Lee, John Jacob Lee is a song-and-dance–man delight. The remainder of the cast is equally terrific.
“42nd Street’s” band is pre-recorded, which is unfortunate, and often amplified too loud for the singers. Nonetheless it’s an excellent recording. So bravo at least for that. Ted LeFevre scenic designs, while lightweight, do provide for gaudy good times. Keith Schneider’s colorful costumes – at times elegant, at times silly – are always just right for every occasion. Ronald Farino’s splendid lighting gives the show a nostalgic ‘30’s musical-comedy look.
Much like Peggy Sawyer who goes on stage a youngster and comes back a star, “42nd Street” goes on stage a retread and comes back a bigger hit than ever. All those wonderful dancin’ feet just will not be denied.
“42nd Street” is now playing at the Eldorado Hotel Casino, Fourth and Virginia Streets, Reno, Nevada. Nightly, except Mondays, through October 25 (2009). Tickets from $29.95. Dinner and show packages from $39.95. For information call 775-786-5700 or go online at eldoradoreno.com.
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