A pounding bass...
A slicing electric guitar...
Classic jazz hits?
Battle of the Bands has never described anything more accurately than Drury Lane’s most recent production of 42ND STREET. Different song stylings clash as the score is amped up and tap-dancing put front and center of this revolutionized production sure to stick in the minds of audience members.
Where Are We at Drury Lane?
In Drury Lane’s production, the general plot still holds true. Small town girl with hopes of making it big on Broadway, Peggy Sawyer works her way into the chorus of a new musical production, Pretty Lady. Supported by her fellow chorus members, she steps into the leading lady role and hopefully can save the show!
Usually the focus of 42ND STREET is making it big after the Great Depression. But here, our time period is absent with a stripped down set just made of scaffolding around the sides of the stage and exposed back wall of the theatre giving an air of ambiguity.
Some costumes suggested the 1930s with double breasted pin-striped suits, others seemed straight from the Saturday Night Fever closet with wide lapels and wrap dresses. We’re left without references to any time period so it feels like we’re floating from place to place forcing this story to be timeless.
Finding Its Footing
We’re left without much context, but where this production finds its legs is the dancing and leaning heavily on the comedic bits of the script.
The cast plays more towards the campy side of things with some over-the-top acting and gimmicky nods to the audience.
Though there are what could be potential emotional moments, the scenes move so fast there’s not a chance to really delve into what’s happening here. It feels as though we’re not given a chance to go beneath the surface of these characters’ emotions, but we get a few laughs in.
So while the story is left to be general, our focus is then on the out-of-the-box orchestrations. Instead of sticking to the original jazz standards of saxophones, trumpets, and the like, we get an electric guitar and synthesizer beats.
With these newly added touches to modernize the score, it makes way for a more modern approach to the dance numbers. If this wasn’t a musical, you could strip everything else away and be left with an incredible contemporary tap performance.
Leading lady Peggy Sawyer played by the effervescent Kimberly Immanuel is absolutely incredible. She is bright and smiling as the up and coming Broadway star and has some of the fastest feet on stage.
Her steps are amplified throughout the theatre as she wears microphones up close to her shoes. It creates some effects that will reverberate through your memory as you leave the theatre!
Director Michael Heitzman brought 42ND STREET to the 21st century from the actors on stage to the sound coming from the musicians. For those who love the original 42ND STREET and are expecting all art decco with pure jazz hits, this interpretation of the show might not be for you. But if you’re looking for a show that’s a new take on an old classic, you’ll fit right at home here.
Note: an excerpt of this review now appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through January 7, 2018
Wednesdays: 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 1:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Drury Lane Theatre
100 Drury Lane
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 630.530.0111 or visiting the Drury Lane website