CCM’s “42nd Street”: a Delightful Romp Through Showbiz America

Review by Nathan Top of “42nd Street”: CCM Musical theatre

Based on the novel of the same name written by Bradford Ropes, University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music’s latest production, “42nd Street”, tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a young actor embarking on her first audition to be in 1933 Broadway’s newest show, “Pretty Lady.”  The original 1981 production went on to win Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as best choreography.

While the show is set primarily backstage of a Broadway theater, the scenery transforms into several technicolorful locations, including a hotel, a train station, and a dressing room. Some of the largest reveals in the show are when a backdrop is raised to reveal one of the beautiful scenic structures. Scenic designer Mark Halpin has created a large world that feels shiny and new, yet also conveys the home that can be found behind the scenes of a running musical. 

As the overture to the show begins, the pit rises from beneath the stage, revealing a hardworking group comprised of CCM’s well-trained musicians. Needless to say, this show has the best pit in town. Not often do audiences have the opportunity to see a fully orchestrated pit with all the parts covered, since most productions use a reduced orchestration due to cost or lack of musicians. The score is not light; as with all dance-heavy productions, there is a lot of music. Between vocal numbers and extensive dance numbers, the pit has work to do and they do it well.  Under the direction of Roger Grodsky, the pit would steal the show if every other aspect wasn’t as equally impeccable. 

The show runs about two and a half hours with intermission, yet it breezes by as every moment of the show is captivating. From the leading roles to the members of the ensemble, the entire cast is on point for the whole of the run. Bailee Endebrock, leading the show as Peggy Sawyer, is a formidable triple threat whose dance in the title-number of the show is one of the best finales I have seen in awhile. The shows second leading lady, Jamie Goodson as Dorothy Brock, captures the layers of her character effortlessly while, at the same time, perfectly timing her one liners and physical comedic moments. One of the best moments of the entire show was lead by Nick Berninger, as Julian Marsh, singing “Lullaby of Broadway,” which caused the audience to pause for a moment in awe before erupting into waves of applause.

With every aspect of this show being truly outstanding, the definitive show-stealer is the choreography. From the beginning, the show’s opening tap number, featuring the vivacious Michael Canu as Andy Lee, puts a collective smile on the face of the audience. It only gets better from there. With clear inspiration drawn from the original choreography of Tony winners Gower Champion and Randy Skinner,  Diane Lala and Katie Johannigman turn the stage into a jovial playground for the cast, as each musical number seems to top the last with immersively exuberant dancing. 

If you are only able to see one show this fall, CCM’s “42nd Street” is the show to see. Running now through October 27th, tickets can be purchased here.