Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wick Theater: 42nd Street (reviews)

chtumb3The Wick Theatre opened its production of 42nd Street on January 9, 2014
Come and meet those dancing feet in this toe tapping musical spectacle. Young Peggy Sawyer is plucked from the chorus to save a show when an aging star who likes the spotlight get’s injured. The quintessential Broadway Musical includes the hits “Lullaby of Broadway”, “We’re in the Money”, ”Shuffle off to Buffalo”, and “42nd St”.
Norb Joerder directed a cast that included Julie Kleiner, Jim Ballard, Aaron Brower, Alex Jorth, Christopher George Patterson, Jeffrey Bruce, Missy McArdle,  Alison McCartan, Janet Wiggins, Alexandra Kathryn Dow, Sophia Ludovici, Lindsay Nantz, Casey Weems, Brooke Martino, Lauren Bell, Abby Perkins, Frank Vomero, James M. Hansen, Elliot Peterson, Stephen Petrovich, Sean Zia and Sean McGee.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
That percussive sound rolling through Boca Raton this weekend was the deafening echo of 32 tap shoes pounding the stage of The Wick Theatre’s production of 42nd Street.
The answering rumble wasn’t thunder; it was audiences almost unconsciously clapping in relief that this kind of ably-produced mainstream musical theater had not vanished in a post-modern world of snide cynicism.
…what a production: The glorious dancing ensemble atop stacked huge coins in “We’re In The Money,” the “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue”-like pas de deux in the “Forty-Second Street Ballet” and the electric and infectious joy of “Lullaby of Broadway,” all of it is pure hallelujah…
If the overall production hadn’t been so strong, we wouldn’t have waited this long to spotlight the two most dazzling elements: Julie Kleiner glowing like neon from the stage as Sawyer and the outstanding choreography of Ron Hutchins.
…gifted with a troupe capable of whatever he asks, Hutchins’ talent blazes as if he was hit with a carbon arc lamp. From the precision stampede of the group numbers to the delicate moves of the duets to blazing solo turns, this is classic Broadway choreography as it is rarely seen in South Florida. How much is Hutchins’ original footwork and how much is that of the original choreographer/director Gower Champion is impossible for a civilian to say, but Hutchins has indisputably led and forged the terpsichorean excellence on view.
…if there ever was a breakout role for (Kleiner), Peggy Sawyer is it. Her quirky lovely face is blessed with expressive eyes and a beaming smile that can convey an endearingly na├»ve girl at one point and later a slyly knowing young woman. She has a unique voice that sounds like a breathless teenager one moment, a sultry woman the next and a Broadway belter the next.
All of which delays mentioning her stunning ability as a dancer.
The show’s breezy tongue-in-cheek tone and sprightly pacing is pretty close to perfect, which it should be since this is director Norb Joerder’s 15th run at the material, literally. He knows exactly how to simultaneously respect and lampoon the period…
…most of The Wick’s supporting cast is dead on. Tall, handsome Jim Ballard creates the producer with a tough hide but an enduring love for fickle Broadway… When he gives that speech to Peggy about “musical comedy, the most glorious words in the English language,” every devoted theatergoer should feel their throat close. He also has some chemistry with Kleiner, understandable since they have appeared together in Doubt, In The Next Room and other works.
Jorth… is a solid choice as the grinning charismatic Lawlor. Tasked as the other lead tap dancer, his bliss is evident from his feet-blurring solos to his earning his place at the front of every chorus number
Bower, who played the jaundiced boarder in the Maltz’s Cabaret, is fine as the vain diva Dorothy. Once again, Missy McArdle creates a tart-tongue seen-it-all Broadway baby, half of the Marsh follies’ composer-lyricist team with Jeffrey Bruce.
Patterson’s ebullient tap dancing has been the outstanding element of a half dozen shows at the Broward Stage Door and he’s finally in a production equal to his talents.
But special attention must also be paid to the ensemble, many of whom create specific characters rather than simply be faceless cogs in a dance machine: Alison McCartan, Janet Wiggins, Alexandra Kathryn Dow, Sophia Ludovici, Lindsay Nantz, Casey Weems, Brooke Martino, Lauren Bell, Abby Perkins, Frank Vomero, James M. Hansen, Elliot Peterson, Stephen Petrovich, Sean Zia and Sean McGee.  When the Wick announced it was doing 42nd Street, many observers scoffed that there wasn’t enough local talent up to the job. Well, while some of these dancers are from out of town, most either live here or have local roots in their past.
Obviously, one reason that theater founder Marilynn Wick chose 42nd Street was her Costume Museum features pieces from the 1980 production, designed by the late great Theoni V. Aldridge and the 2001 Broadway revival by Roger Kirk. What we see on stage are likely not the 30-year-old pieces. But executive producer Kimberly Wick and her staff at their Costume World rental company have recreated a dazzling parade of wardrobes, from the workaday rehearsal costumes to pinstripe suits to shimmering gowns, all feathers and spangles and fedoras and spats.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
…the company is back on track with a lavish, spirited production of the Depression-era backstage musical 42nd Street… serving up the show’s abundance of production numbers, grafted onto the song trunk of Harry Warren and Al Dubin. They include such familiar tunes as We’re in the Money, Shuffle Off to Buffalo and Lullaby of Broadway, choreographed here by Ron Hutchins with giddy abandon and a devotion to excess.
As Peggy, Kleiner is all wide-eyed and spunky, but she is the standout tap dancer the show requires. In 42nd Street’s climactic number — and Pretty Lady’s — kind of a Slaughter on Tenth Avenue knockoff, she shows she has the necessary star quality. Ballard is aptly brusque as Julian and Bower is pure diva but also more talented than the character is said to be.
Credit director Norb Joerder — a longtime veteran of the Jupiter Theatre -- with managing the large cast and the show’s complex traffic flow. He is not one to give the show a startling new conceptual spin, but his 42nd Street is still a massive achievement that packs an entertaining wallop.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
If there was ever a reason to check out the new Wick Theatre in the former Caldwell Theatre space in Boca Raton, its latest production of 42nd Street is it. The show has been extended and no wonder — this is one of those big, brash Broadway musicals that the Wick is beginning to build its reputation on and gain a following.
The Wick's production combines the sepia tone of the '30s movie with the modern Technicolor of the Broadway show to great success, which is especially evident in the glorious costumes by Kimberly Wick and Costume World. Norbert Joerder, who is directing his 15th production of 42nd Street, explains in program notes that he has tried to recreate Champion's original version and boy, oh, boy, what a swell recreation it is. But even though he suggests it’s a re-creation, there's an energy about this 42nd Street that, even if you've seen it before, leaves room to enjoy this fresh take on the tap happy, standards-packed musical.
…in order to have a good 42nd Street, you have to have those dancing feet. Joerder brings up his curtain on the show with just a peek at the dancing feet, then lifts it for a full onslaught of tap frenzy. Kudos to choreographer Ron Hutchins who made every ensemble member appear as if they were born to dance.
Julie Kleiner owns the show as Sawyer, bringing the audience along for her journey, and with her natural dance ability, she's absolutely convincing when everyone is wowed by Peggy's quick steps. Kleiner's comic timing is impeccable, too…
Jim Ballard, who was so wonderful in Working, the last production at Caldwell, and Palm Beach Dramaworks' The Fantasticks plays Broadway show director Marsh as a no nonsense Wall Street type, but never leaves room for any softness.
Standouts include Alex Jorth as Billy Lawlor, the confident leading man… You can almost see a twinkling star go "tink" off of his left front tooth as his perpetual smile makes his enthusiasm for the lyrics genuine... Christopher George Patterson probably has the best happy feet in the cast as dance director Andy Lee — he lights up the stage as he leads "the kids" (the dancers) through their routines.
Alison McCartan gets some great laughs as Ann "Anytime Annie" Reilly. She could have easily handled the lead role of Peggy Sawyer. We're hoping to see McCartan in a lead role in something on the South Florida stage soon. Aaron Bower gives her prima donna Dorothy Brock just the right amount of desperation, lifting a role that could get trapped in divadom to one that carries with it a dose of sympathy.
And it's always fun to watch Jeffrey Bruce. Here as Bert Barry, co-author of Pretty Lady, he takes some risks that payoff in laughs and seems to be having a ball.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Stunned Senseless:
Filled with memorable hits such as “We’re in the Money,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “Lullaby of Broadway” and, of course, the titular tune, the show overcomes the digital orchestra thing with bright and brassy direction from Norb Joerder and wowie-zowie choreography by Ron Hutchins.
Supporting cast members Missy McArdle and Jeffrey Bruce slide in some of the bigger laughs as the co-authors of the show-within-a-show. And there is some dazzling dancing (no, seriously, dazz-a-ling) from Alex Jorth and Christopher George Patterson as the juvenile lead and dance director of “Pretty Lady,” respectively.
But man, oh, man, can these kids dance. For two hours (with a 15-minute intermission), they hoof it, and hoof it hard.
42nd Street plays at The Wick Theater until February 9, 2014 has been extended through February 15!

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