The Towsontowne Dinner Theatre is staging a spritely production of the David Merrick tap-dancing musical "42nd Street" through Jan. 26.
Directed with nice flair by Eric Potter, the show, based on the 1933 Busby Berkeley movie starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell, has 12 memorable songs including "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me," "We're in the Money," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" and the big tap number "42nd Street."
When Merrick's extravaganza (with splendid choreography by the late Gower Champion) opened at the Winter Garden Theater on Aug. 25, 1980, it garnered rave reviews from the New York critics.
What is important about this show is not the flimsy story about the making of an overnight star. It is the timeless score by the team of Harry Warner and Al Dubin and the exuberant execution of the dance sequences.
The book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble retains all the corny flavor of the old movie. The Towsontowne cast plays the stereotyped roles with sincerity, which makes the performances -- if not believable -- more palatable.
The thin story is set in New York during the Great Depression. Veteran Broadway producer Julian Marsh is staging his new show, "Pretty Ladies." Because he is desperate for financial backing he is forced to cast a fading, falling star, Dorothy Brock, as the "ingenue."
Appearing on the scene is an inexperienced kid, Peggy Sawyer, (with loads of natural talent, of course) who has just arrived in the Big Apple. Her dream is to become a big Broadway star like Brock.
Impressed, Marsh puts her in the chorus and, as luck would have it, Brock breaks her ankle. This gives Peggy her big chance. She has 24 hours to learn all the songs and dance routines. But Peggy has the proper gumption.
Marsh works tirelessly with her until the hour before the opening curtain when he delivers the famous time-worn line, "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"
Overall, the Towsontowne production is an entertaining one with good footwork and vocal delivery. Ernie Ritchey's choreography and dance performance is one of the best things about the show.
Holly Pasciullo is a vibrant Anytime Annie. Her "There's a Sunny Side to Every Situation" number has the energetic pep and zing the show requires.
Liz Boyer imbues her role as Maggie, the comedienne, with a lot of creative enthusiasm. Billy Burke as the romantic lead in love with Peggy offers a pleasing performance.
Dotti Mach as the injured star gives the role a polished, professional touch. Mach's solo number, "I Know Now," is sung with excellent stage acumen.
Area choreographer/director and actor Todd Pearthree convinces as the hard-driving Marsh. In the stellar role of Peggy Sawyer, Kirsten Gerding, although displaying obvious talent, does not fit this role of the starry-eyed ingenue who soars to dynamic success within the space of a few hours.
Gerding simply is not ready (as yet) for a character that calls for a strong stage presence and outstanding dancing especially in the big "42nd Street" number.
Although only a minor member of the ensemble, Michelle Merson as Ethel shines (as she has in all her previous roles). Other members of the well-coordinated ensemble include: James Hunnicutt, Everett Rose, Debbie Rosensteel, Sarah Stevens, Liese Frutchey, David Edwards, Todd Van Hackett, David O'Brien, Diana Collins, Sean Doyle.
Musical direction and digital orchestrations are by K.J. Davis. Costume design is by "Van"-"Ford."