Review: 42nd Street


The glitz and glamour of Broadway comes to Cardiff with a brand-new production of 42nd Street

“Come and meet those dancing feet…” is a tantalising invitation to the stage show that encompasses the finest tap dancing and more broadly, the spirit of Broadway itself. 42nd Street is a classic showbiz musical that gives a funny and humbling insight into theatre in 1930s America.

The show opens with the excellent use of a projection screen playing footage of Depression era America; this does an effective and efficient job of setting the scene and providing context for the story. The curtain rises slightly, revealing the synchronised tapping feet of the ensemble that is synonymous with this show’s USP – and it certainly lived up to such expectations.


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42nd Street features a cast scattered with familiar names including Samantha Womack as Dorothy Brock. The renowned actress had great stage presence as the diva and aloof star of the show but her abilities as an actress far exceed her vocal prowess; Womack’s voice is classically “musical theatre” and old-fashioned, perhaps tailored to the role, but nonetheless she did struggle with her upper range during I Only Have Eyes for You. Despite this, she sang the opening of 42nd Street nicely, with power and a sultry tone.

Other noticeable cast members were Faye Tozer and Les Dennis who played the parts of Maggie Jones and Bert Barry, respectively. Their roles as the overbearing, slightly irritating comedy duo were conveyed well, albeit the light-hearted deviance from the storyline was at times baffling. Shuffle Off to Buffalo is a song likely to get on anybody’s nerves; with the over-the-top vaudeville acting, the sequence was strangely placed and its only purpose seemed to be making Les Dennis look stupid. Faye Tozer was somewhat wasted in this role. Although she executed it well, the character was too old and silly which did not provide a platform for her dancing and singing capabilities.

Throughout, the show had some very funny moments. Jokes about the industry at the expense of tenors and musicians got a laugh, as did a scene between theatre mogul Julian Marsh (Michael Praed) – who did a brilliant job of being equal parts endearing, authoritative and witty – and Peggy Sawyer (Rhianna Dorris).

Prior to the show, notices informed the audience that Rhianna Dorris would be playing Sawyer for this performance, contrary to the programme listing and much publicised name of Nicole-Lily Braisden. Instead, Dorris – an ensemble cast member and second understudy for Peggy Sawyer – stepped up to the role. Now, as the rumour mill has it, Braisden sustained an injury and was unable to perform; talk about life imitating art, as the very premise of 42nd Street is a kid from the ensemble becoming the leading lady.


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Rhianna Dorris however, was so utterly brilliant, captivating and the most incredible dancer. Every step was precise and sharp, movements slick and she performed the choreography (including cramprolls, buffalos and wings) with ease. From a stripped back sequence during Go into Your Dance to her impressive and frankly awe-inspiring routine in With Plenty of Money and You, Dorris lead the ensemble in fantastic, precise sounding tap rhythms and her bronze dress made her shine like the star she is. It was genuinely difficult to take your eyes off her. In fact, it is a wonder how anybody could have been taking on this role ahead of her.

With reference to the costumes, they were like a character in themselves in how they captured the attention. From start to finish, every costume for every character was phenomenal. The classic 30s fashion of high waisted shorts, patterned sweater vests and slick combovers was charming but the real winner was the costumes for Marsh’s show ‘Pretty Lady’.

The gorgeous glitz and glitter, headpieces and accessories gave a Follies vibe, in particular, We’re in The Money was a great number where the shimmering costumes made for an impressive spectacle. The male cast members were also suited and booted in top hats and tails for slick choral number Dames/Keep Young and Beautiful. An honourable mention must also go to leading man Billy Lawlor (Sam Lips) whose solo segments were strong and commanding.

The scenery, lighting and backdrops all added to the grand and glamorous effect, and the unsung heroes were the pit musicians. Musical director Grant Walsh lead a collection of talented reed and brass musicians who made a wonderful sound, especially for the groovy and moody, bass driven titular song which is an unquestionable ear worm. Rhianna Dorris’ vocals alongside the chorus’ subtle taps, and an almost Pasodoble inspired couple routine with Sam Lips was the perfect precursor to the finale.

The choreography by Bill Deamer deserves to be applauded. The musical staging was organised and always seamless. To choregraph a large ensemble in such an efficient and aesthetically precise way is a fantastic achievement. Indeed, a lot of production went into the performance to pull the whole thing off.

42nd Street is an expose of the Broadway industry and a dreamers’ paradise. It follows the likes of High Society, a classical production and perhaps a little outdated in the modern musical era. The focus is almost certainly on the tap dancing – and rightly so – as the old-fashioned songs, albeit nicely harmonised, are very basic. The sheer talent and stamina on display deserves every credit. A fun and brilliant watch, even just for Rhianna Dorris’ performance alone.

Catch 42nd Street at the  Wales Millennium Centre 

 Booking Via The link- Here