Theatre Review: 42ND STREET – Opera House, Manchester

Michael Praed as Julian Marsh in 42ND STREET. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Driven by its talented cast, showstopping tap sequences and fresh direction, 42ND STREET solidifies its place as a beloved classic in the world of musical theatre.

4 out of 5 stars

Few shows can boast the spectacle of 42ND STREET, and the latest touring production at Manchester’s Opera House is no exception. This musical extravaganza, based on Bradford Ropes’ novel, spins a mesmerizing tale of dreams and stardom set against the backdrop of 1930s New York.

The story revolves around Peggy Sawyer, a talented young showgirl yearning for fame. When she catches the eye of director Julian Marsh, her life takes an unexpected turn. From a chorus line performer, Peggy finds herself thrust into the limelight as the leading lady, all thanks to a twist of fate.

Faye Tozer and Les Dennis in 42ND STREET. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Under the skilful direction of Jonathan Church, this production seamlessly blends modern flair with the timeless charm of Broadway. Robert Jones’ set effortlessly transitions from a gritty rehearsal space to the glitzy opening night of PRETTY LADY, perfectly capturing the essence of the era. The costumes, meticulously designed, radiate the glimmer and sophistication synonymous with 1930s showbiz.

As accidental leading lady, Nicole-Lily Baisden shines as Peggy, infusing her character with wide-eyed wonder and undeniable talent. Her vocals soar, and her footwork dazzles, making her an instant hit with the audience. Samantha Womack equally impresses as ageing star Dorothy Brock, embodying the prima donna with grace and humour.

Nicole-Lily Baisden and the cast of 42ND STREET. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Elsewhere, Faye Tozer and Les Dennis shine as the witty co-writers and producers Maggie Jones and Bert Barry, while Michael Praed exudes charisma as the determined but world-weary director Julian Marsh.

However, the true highlight of 42ND STREET is the grand scale tap numbers. Choreographed by Bill Deamer, these ensemble sequences are a symphony of synchronized movements, leaving the audience in awe. Add in the iconic score of classic tunes like 42ND STREET, WE’RE IN THE MONEY, LULLABY OF BROADWAY, and I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU, and it is easy to see why 42ND STREET still draws a crowd.

While the plot might not break new ground, the fusion of jaw-dropping tap dance routines, backstage mystery, romance, and delightful comedy make solidifies 42ND STREET’s place as a beloved classic in the world of musical theatre.

42ND STREET runs at the Opera House, Manchester, until 21 October 2023