It doesn’t get more Broadway than “42nd Street,” and on Tuesday, the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State will present a new production of the classic musicial at Eisenhower Auditorium.
“42nd Street” is the tap dance extravaganza that is essentially Broadway’s “reality show,” filled with backstage drama centered around the American dream of becoming a star. It includes some of the most notable standards ever written, such as “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “Dames,” “I Only Have Eyes for You” and, of course, “42nd Street.”
Based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie, “42nd Street” tells the story of young dancer named Peggy Sawyer, who leaves her Allentown home and goes to New York City to audition for the new Broadway musical “Pretty Lady.” When the legendary leading lady breaks her ankle, Sawyer takes over and, against all odds, becomes a star.
“That’s why ‘42nd Street’ still hits a homerun every time — because everyone dreams of that sort of story,” Assistant Director Adam Kidd said. “It’s not about chance or luck — it’s about opportunity meeting preparation. In the story, Peggy Sawyer says, ‘I’m from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I can do any tap step ever invented.’ And she can. So it’s about the preparedness for the opportunity.”
The original production of “42nd Street” was produced in 1980 on Broadway by David Merrick and featured direction and choreography by Gower Champion. It ran on Broadway for 3,486 performances, winning Tony Awards in 1981 for Best Musical and Best Choreography. The Broadway revival, which opened in 2001, ran for 1,524 performances and earned two Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.
Director Mark Bramble and choreographer Randy Skinner, who brought the 2001 revival to the stage, have teamed up again for the national touring production.
Kidd began working as an assistant to Bramble during the Broadway revival of “42nd Street.” He has worked with Bramble for 13 years — learning how to direct “42nd Street” and working on many other productions throughout the years. Kidd was chosen to help stage this national tour.
“It’s impossible to sit throughout the show without smiling,” Kidd said. “The music is so good, and it feels so good — and to watch that many people tap that well together is inspiring.”
For the cast of “42nd Street,” the rehearsal period was intense, as they had a very limited time to prepare for this tour.
“I’m still sitting here talking to you, not quite sure how we did it, but we did it,” Kidd said. “It’s a massive, massive show — a very big ship to sail. I don’t know how the dancers learned those routines in that amount of time, but they did because they’re brilliant.”
The tour opened in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 26 and then went on to Sarasota and West Palm Beach.
“As we’re moving along into the rest of the country, ‘42nd Street’ appeals to everyone,” Kidd said. “You can bring anyone to the show. It’s a huge span of ages that’s attracted to it and can enjoy it.”
Kidd hopes that the production brings light into the lives of the audience.
“I’m hoping we can show them dazzling, glitzy, beautiful dancers singing this joyous music and that we can lift people’s hearts,” he said. “My dream is that kids come to this and say, ‘I want to do that.’ We’ve put together a beautiful production and I hope they love it — I’m sure they will.”
IF YOU GO
- What: “42nd Street”
- When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17
- Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
- Info: www.cpa.psu.edu