“Come On Along And Listen To…..” In Lauderhill-ACM

Audition from 42nd Street at LPAC: God, I hope they get it. / Photos by David Popken

By Bill Hirschman

If you’ve got a competent, committed team as the Broadway at LPAC series does for its production of 42nd Street, you’re nearly guaranteed a rousing second act gift of pure hallelujah as the shared love of musical theater grows and grows into the triumphantly cresting cakewalk of “Lullaby of Broadway.”

And throughout the evening, the machine gun-paced click-clack of nearly two-dozen hoofers simultaneously tapping their shoe leather in near precision at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center is simply an unalloyed pleasure.

Granted, this production is almost a photocopy of earlier editions but that’s indirectly the whole point of this 1980 celebratory embrace of every 1930s musical theater and film trope (and cliché).

And granted, this laudable enthusiastic hard-charging troupe inexplicably comes off a few shades shy of the blinding electricity and simmering sheen of some other productions, an 8.5 on a scale of 10.

Rooted in a subtly well-constructed script by Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart (Carnival, Hello Dolly!, Barnum), the 1980 libretto is punctuated with Depression Era classics from the well-culled songbook of Al Dubin and Harry Warren ranging from “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me” to the title number. The unabashed homage to Broadway was rocketed skyward by the direction-choreography of Gower Champion who died hours before opening night.

Champion’s staging of the sweat and blood creation of a classic musical was so winning that it has been nearly duplicated in nearly every succeeding revival and regional productions. Indeed, his vision has been done justice here by choreographer Alex Jorth (who has appeared the three previous productions of 42nd Street) and Michael Ursua, the skilled director, musical director and artistic director for this new company created by the City of Lauderhill and Arts Center Management.

Their instrument is this cast of true believers who physically fill the proscenium from one end to the other and deliver the goods with every production number. Ursua has helmed clear and clean and clarion vocal performances from virtually the entire assemblage. Jorth has molded the crease-sharp ensemble in terpsichorean pizzazz.

At the top of the assemblage is Seana Nicol as Peggy Sawyer, a newbie from Allentown trying to join the chorus of her first Broadway show, Pretty Lady. For most of the evening, Nicol’s taut angular face is predominantly showing uncertainty and fear – in between her feet’s blinding displays of tap proficiency. But when the leading lady breaks her ankle, Peggy inherits the role and performs the show’s penultimate title number – a kind of ballet, tap, modern dance conflagration you’d see in a Gene Kelly movie – Nicol is stunning in her intensity and skill. There is no question why Ursua-Jorth hired her.

Patrick Ryan Sullivan handily recreates a role he did on Broadway as the tough-on-the-outside supportive-on-the inside pinstriped director Julian Marsh, nearly out of time and money in a last-ditch attempt to reclaim his reputation for success. Sullivan keeps the tension level on stage as Marsh reminds the dancers “Anyone who doesn’t want a job, there’s a breadline around the corner.”

As leading lady Dorothy Brock, Colleen Pagano brings the requisite demanding acid-tongue diva attitude, but also one of the strongest, most expressive voices in this cast, notably with the rueful ballad “I Know Now.”

Providing strong support is Karen Hagerty Cohen as Maggie, the clarion-voiced half of the writing team of Pretty Lady; Benjamin Shaevitz as the effervescent indefatigable juvenile lead Billy Lawlor; Austin Carroll as dance captain Andy Lee, and Alexandra Dow as the company’s lead dancer and Peggy’s new friend.

Ursua and company made some wise decisions in this second outing of the company’s first season. The sets, properties and especially the costumes were all rented from 3D Theatricals. This show won’t work without the outsized visual spectacle and spangles. So it was a smart choice to bring in those dazzling outfits and the oversized platforms looking like dimes for “We’re in the Money.”

The company also rented the digital recording by MT Pit LLC, which genuinely does a fine job recreating the full sound of a Broadway pit orchestra. The problem is that this score in particular begs for the unreproducible brightness that only a live band can deliver (which is impossible to afford for a new company). So there is a slight aural pall that robs the production of a certain extra shimmer.

This company is the newest in the region; 42nd Street and the previous show The Full Monty indicate a promising future. Its season closer in a few weeks is Always…Patsy Cline, a popular mesh of Cline standards but welded into a story about fandom.

42nd Street from Arts Center Management & The City of Lauderhill runs through March 5 at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, 3800 NW 11th Place (northeast corner of 441 and Sunrise). Performances 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday.  Running time 2 hours 20 minutes including one intermission. Go to
https://www.showpass.com/lpacfl-42nd-street-23-02-16-14-3243/ or call (954) 777- 2055.

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