Legendary Broadway impresario David Merrick had his last (and longest-running) hit in 1980 with 42nd Street, an adaptation of the 1933 RKO film best known as one of the classic backstage musicals, as well as a vehicle for Busby Berkeley's jaw-dropping choreography. The stage version preserves the film's terrific Harry Warren-Al Dubin songs, including "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," and the title tune, plus ringers "We're in the Money" and "Lullaby of Broadway." Jerry Orbach plays down-and-out director Julian Marsh hoping for a comeback, and Tammy Grimes is the star Dorothy Brock who gives way to ingenue Peggy Sawyer (Wanda Richert). 42nd Street is fun listening (including a herd of tap dancers in the opening auditions), and even if it seems quaint compared to the grittier backstage look taken in A Chorus Line, which debuted five years earlier, the two shows coexisted on Broadway for many years. 42nd Street is also well known for one of Merrick's most infamous stunts: when director Gower Champion died the morning the show opened, Merrick kept the information to himself so he could announce it to a shocked audience and cast after the final curtain call. --David Horiuchi
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Dumb Ox | Manassas, VA United States | 10/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"42nd Street is an oldie, dating back to the days when Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler played the director and ingenuous wanna-be musical star. In 1980, this version opened on Broadway, with some updated lines and songs added to make it relevant to present-day audiences. It featured a talented ensemble of performers, including stage musical veterans Jerry Orbach and Tammy Grimes. (An interesting sidenote: This was Orbach's last role in musical theater until he provided the voice of Lumiere for Disney in 1990; he also blamed his contract for this show for costing him a stab at a movie career!)
The tale is old and well-traveled to anyone familiar with old films about stage shows: A troupe is assembled, a play thrown together, someone coughs up backing dough, and all seems lost until the misfit saves the show. It's old as dirt and still strangely fresh, appealing to most people's hope for a happy ending. Toss in great songs written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and dance routines choreographed by the great Gower Champion, and the result is infectiously fun.
The story centers on the efforts of fallen director Julian Marsh to produce a musical during the Depression, no small feat considering that most of society has hit rock-bottom financially. Salvation of a sort comes in the form of faded star Dorothy Brock, who is over the hill but has a rich sugar daddy willing to back a show---provided she's the star. However, auditions have unearthed a sweet young thing with real star potential named Peggy Sawyer, who suffers from terminal klutziness and an ability to get in Julian's way. Nonetheless, he shows her compassion and hires her as an extra. Trouble starts when Dorothy's old flame Pat Denning appears on the scene and Julian fears that her rich boyfriend will yank his support out from under the show. From then on, it's all up in the air as to whether or not the musical will happen.
There's plenty of fun and great song and dance numbers, such as "Go Into Your Dance", "We're In The Money", "Shuffle Off To Buffalo", "42nd Street" and the best one of all, "Lullaby Of Broadway". The singers were perfectly cast for their roles: Jerry Orbach shone as Marsh, Tammy Grimes breathed life into the fading but still proud Dorothy, and newcomer Wanda Reichert was wonderful as the awkward yet talented Peggy; her cracked voice was reminiscent of Ruby Keeler's. In his last live musical role, Orbach had far less to do than in his earlier shows, but his strong voice had lost none of its virility and power to reach the balcony. In a rare video clip shown on TV one night, our children got to see him and the original cast sing and dance to "Lullaby Of Broadway" and were wowed; he and Wanda Reichert dazzled the crowd, right along with the ensemble.
One last piece of stranger-than-fiction stuff: Orbach's first role on Broadway (The Fantasticks was off-Broadway) was as Paul in Carnival, which was choreographed and directed by Gower Champion; so was his last. And it was on opening night of 42nd Street that the infamous David Merrick, who also produced both musicals, came out and announced to a stunned audience and cast that Champion had just died a few hours earlier of a fatal illness. To Jerry Orbach, the whole episode was awful, a sordid trick pulled by Merrick to garner ticket sales for the show, as if the musical didn't have enough merit to pull in an audience. Listen to this CD and realize that no publicity stunts were needed---42nd Street is terrific, and remains fresh even now. Enjoy!"
Byron Kolln | 11/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw 42nd Street in Washington DC and it was awesome! This soundtrack is great. All of the music is so catchy. If you like 42nd Street and you enjoy the music, buy this CD!"