It seems like I’ve seen at least forty 42nd Streets, partly because it’s my job and mostly because it’s a tap lovers dream (and I do love tap). This is my fist experience with a tiny 42nd Street, though. Granted, it’s out of necessity because the Stoneham Theatre’s stage is too small for eighty thundering feet. I miss the usual opening of the show as the curtain slowly rises to reveal all that heavenly stomping but thanks to Ilyse Robbins (Stoneham’s director/choreographer) I’ve discovered that eleven crackerjack hoofers can work up a nifty noise. I also discovered that Jim Rice’s trio delivers the requisite orchestration. I didn’t even miss that pit full of musicians.
Here’s the most surprising thing about Stoneham’s show: A second banana can be a first banana when it’s Kathy St. George. I’ve seen a lot of Dorothy Brocks (she’s the haughty star who breaks an ankle, leaving the musical without a leading lady). They’re most always humorless and one dimensional. Not this Dorothy Brock! St. George makes her so deliciously naughty that you start to think the musical is about her! Sorry, Peggy Sawyer. To be fair, Ephie Aardema is mighty talented and she makes Peggy’s innocence endearing. She’s the character who saves the day and “comes back a star” And her attraction to the steely producer (Russell Garrett) is quite believable (There are sparks, to boot which isn’t often the case in most versions I’ve seen).
Because the dancing is scaled down (but ingeniously, tightly choreographed nevertheless) and the big production numbers aren’t so big (Think deflation for “We’re in the Money”), the story and the individual characters take center stage. Neil A. Casey and Margaret Ann Brady as the stock comic relief characters stand out as do Ceit Zweil as Anytime Annie, Bob DeVivo as St. George’s love interest and Andy McLeavey as the cheery leading man with an eye for the ladies. As the producer says, “Musical comedy” are two of the “most glorious words in the English language”…big or small.