“42nd Street”

 

            The last installment of the season for The Dallas Summer Musical lineup is a revival of a 1933 Broadway gem.  This one is a high-energy showcase where the dancing really dazzles, and the plot is just substantial enough to provide some really good excuses to break out into song, including “I Only Have Eyes For You” (how can we not think of Art Garfunkel?), “We're In the Money,” and “Lullaby of Broadway.”

            The context features the backstage machinations of.....a Broadway musical called “Pretty Lady.”  The producer/director is the famous but high-handed Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor), who informs his troupe members that their pay is $30 a week, which, in the middle of the Depression, they seem perfectly delighted to have.  So they also willingly take his verbal abuse, and the rigorous workouts preparing for the show, which has a fatal flaw:  the lead has been promised to the girlfriend of the primary investor.  The good news is that Dorothy Brock (Kaitlin Lawrence) is not a bad singer.  The bad news is that she has two left feet, and a huge entitlement attitude.

            Enter the poignant story of the newcomer from Allentown, Pennsylvania, with suitcase in hand, and stars in her eyes.  She's so nervous and uncertain of herself that she misses the auditions because she' isn't able to make herself open the stage door.  But some sympathetic chorus girls encourage her to try out a number with the practice pianist, anyway, and her talent level is obvious, even to the curmudgeon Director, who finally casts her as his lone understudy.  18-year-old Caitlin Ehlinger is just fresh-faced enough to pull off the wide-eyed-in-the-big-city innocent, and she's a terrific dancer with a clear, clean voice notably devoid of tremolo.  She looks every bit the non-pretentious cutie who wins the hearts of not only the cast members, but the audiences, as well.  Even the grumpy diva Dorothy Brock, having broken her ankle and now unable to perform, develops soft edges when ceding her starring role to the newcomer with the sweet disposition and charming warmth.

            But it's really all about the dancing.  The huge troupe fills the entire stage with their glittering costumes, but they are incredibly precise and unfailingly energetic, all the way to the choreographed encore.  Every one currently taking lessons in a local dance studio should go and see how the high-stepping is really done.  And the rest of us can enjoy the energy and vivaciousness of this welcome Broadway revival.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  When have you been “the newbie” and needed somebody to take you under their wing?

2)                  When have you been “the veteran” trying to be nice to the newcomer?

3)                  When, in your experience, has the unknown novice outshined the resident professional?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association