Tapping to the Top: A Review of 42nd Street

Kirsten Ebenezer, Staff Writer

The Berkeley Carroll high school school production of the musical 42nd Street was a stunning infusion of stellar acting and incredible vocals. Directed by Mr. Justin Indovina, choreographed by Ms. Majors, and set designed by Mr. Kent, the musical must be lauded for the pleasure and enjoyment it gave to its audience. 42nd Street tells the story of a young, naive girl named Peggy Sawyer who has come from Allentown, Pennsylvania to become a chorus girl on Broadway. It is essentially a musical within in a musical that has moments of laughter, empathy, and most importantly, hope for characters like Peggy and her friends as she learns that with friendship, hard work, and persistence, she will eventually “hear the beat of dancing feet..[at] Forty-Second Street”.

The musical began with a tap dancing number from the chorus girls and the audience was later introduced to a strict but exceptional director named Julian Marsh (played by 9th grader, Rocco Blum). Julian Marsh impatiently, wanted to hire chorus girls for his new musical Pretty Lady. Moments later, Peggy Sawyer (played by 12th grader Eleanor Pearson) an awestruck and wide-eyed girl chorus girl enters and mistakenly bumps into the frustrated director. Peggy is immediately admired by the people around her since she can sing, dance and act very well; luckily she is given a part in Pretty Lady but has to deal with complications that come with it.  She struggles to create an amicable relationship with the leading lady, Dorothy Brock (played by 12th grader Lily Rose Weiss) and becomes hesitant to advance a relationship with her love interest Billy Lawlor (played by 12th grader Caleb Gordon).

As she endeavors to be a good chorus girl and fulfill her dreams of making it big on Broadway, Peggy Sawyer accidentally injures leading lady, Dorothy Brock. With no heroine, Julian Marsh is furious and Pretty Lady is cancelled. After some persuasion from Ann (a chorus girl played by 11th grader Lucy Shenk) and co-writers Maggie and Bert (played by 12th grader Eliza Liebler and 11th grader Drew Keenan), Marsh decides to put Peggy as the leading lady and the musical is saved. Peggy strives to do the right thing in every aspect of her journey and attempts to overcome the obstacles that are put in her way. With faith and ardent perseverance, she is able to save the show and be the wonderful performer that she came to New York to be.

There is also an important historical context in 42nd Street. As Mr. Many members of the Broadway community were directly affected by the stock market crash in the early 1930’s and because 42nd Street  was set during the year 1933 it was able to portray the importance of jobs for writers, directors and chorus girls.   Indovina mentioned before the musical began, songs like “We’re in the Money” communicate to the audience the way people in Broadway suffered during the Great Depression. Lyrics like, “Old Man Depression, you are through/ you done us wrong!” gave the characters in the economic collapse an incentive to fight for Pretty Lady to be seen as a great Broadway act.

One of the reasons why this musical was unlike any other was because of the live band accompanying the singers. 42nd Street was extremely entertaining because it appealed to the musicians who were a part of it. Kirt Thorne, a clarinetist in the 10th Grade who played during the musical numbers said that, “the live music added a lot to the play— the music was brilliant and it was great working with other musicians. We should do this more often!”. The music felt fresh and energizing for both the actors and the audience. Since many of the musicians were students, the musical gave the Berkeley Carroll community a chance to admire and value each and every performer, whether they were acting, dancing, singing, or playing an instrument.

Overall, 42nd Street was an engaging and humorous musical that captured the audience. Henry Pearson a 10th grader who played the part of Abner Dillon, Dorothy’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ reflected on the musical and said, “It was a really great experience, it is probably one of the most complex plays that we’ve ever had to put on; there was tap dancing, large amounts of choreography and honestly, it was a huge success and … a great show”. The actors obviously enjoyed working on the play and this enthusiasm was seen in the spectators. Ms. Prescott, Dean of the 9th Grade noted that it was wonderful to watch a 9th grader take one of the lead roles and she further described her opinion of the play as a whole by saying, “42nd Street- the only words that can come to mind is fabulous. I was toe-tapping, yelling, and laughing; it was amazing. Hat’s off to Ms. Majors for getting people to tap from September to now. Fantastic!” Director, Mr. Indovina was especialIy blown away by the musical, and “ very proud of the students for all their hard work.” He believed that “the students had put everything together very well.” I would have to agree with the preceding remarks. As an audience member, I was fully enthralled by the skill of the actors. The set created by Mr. Kent enhanced the production and the students used their stage effectively. Ultimately, the musical was an exciting experience for all who were able to be a part of it, and also for those who were able to witness the work that had gone into creating and directing it.