Popular `42nd Street' chock-full of tap, songs

Musical: Chesapeake Music Hall's production succeeds because of its direction, choreography and ensemble.

Review

March 11, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A 1933 movie musical that arrived on Broadway in 1980 directed by the legendary Gower Champion, 42nd Street may have, even then, been a dated show-biz fairytale.

Now this tale about Peggy Sawyer - a talented ingenue plucked from the chorus line to become a star after the show's leading lady breaks her ankle - is all-too-familiar. The character of Julian Marsh is the stereotypical hard-boiled, uncompromising Broadway director, and Dorothy Brock is the leading lady of small talent and big ego.

Other stock characters include plucky writers Maggie Jones and Bert Barry, along with the lovesick juvenile lead Billy Lawlor, hard-driving dance captain Andy Lee and a bevy of big-hearted chorus girls.

Making this hackneyed story work takes major onstage and offstage talent, and Chesapeake Music Hall's production has both, including strong leads and skilled ensemble actors who supply fantastic tap-dancing and terrific singing.

One reason for the Music Hall's success is the exciting, Gower Champion-inspired choreography by Jodi Adkins. Equally important is Sherry Kay Anderson's innovative, fast-paced direction.

Contributing significant sparkle are spiffy costumes designed by Anderson and Judi Drinks.

Leading man Jason Fulmer is skilled enough to create a believable Julian Marsh, investing him with powerful charisma and warmth. Possessing one of the best baritone voices to be heard on any local stage, Fulmer sings an inspired "Lullaby of Broadway" that illuminates Chesapeake's stage with Broadway wattage.

Heather Scheeler delivers skilled, standout dancing and singing as Peggy Sawyer. She has an abundance of charm that makes the audience root for Peggy to succeed as a neophyte leading lady.

Although the role of Dorothy Brock is usually played by Carol Cohen, understudy Kim Damewood played the part in a recent performance. Her Dorothy Brock will only add to her stage laurels. Damewood's performance - only her second time in the role - was excellent. Her acting was first-rate, and she sang and danced well while looking the part of a glamorous leading lady.

Tere Fulmer is a dynamic Maggie Jones - warm, energetic, funny and able to belt out a song in her inimitable way. Playing fellow writer Bert Barry is the always-reliable Jerry Vess, who brings wit, charm and distinction to the role.

Superb dancer Jordan Klein plays dance captain Andy Lee, burning up the floor with his tapping, although his acting is at best lukewarm.

Also up to the dancing challenge are the chorines who offer skilled, spirited tap-dancing.

It was also nice to see former Chesapeake Music Hall favorite David Bosley-Reynolds again gracing its stage.

"42 Street" continues through April 24 at Chesapeake Music Hall. For reservations call 410-626-7515.

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