42nd Street is a musical founded on nostalgia. Having originally been successfully adapted from page to screen, and then finally to Broadway stage, it is a show that continues to inspire hope in its ever-struggling audience.
The musical is centred upon New York newbie, Peggy Sawyer, who is thrust rather unceremoniously into the chorus line of Broadway’s latest show, helmed by the infamous Julian Marsh. Peggy’s struggles to become just another tapping and twirling chorus body is in fact what sets her apart. She is a star, with even her rookie errors presenting her as someone destined for more. Her rapid rise to acclaim is just as much the result of her talent as it is chance, luck and perhaps even fate.
Her showbusiness social mobility is reflective of the ideals of the American Dream that were otherwise crumbling amongst all of American society with the height of the Great Depression. Peggy’s success is not just representative of the American ability to achieve greatness even in the toughest of circumstances, but to not lose your true self within this. It is here that Peggy becomes a true example for her audience.
Her story’s initial Broadway (and later West End) translations in the 1980s, when America was experiencing its worst recession since the Great Depression, would have felt just as apt as they do today – with our own global community experiencing not just economic downturn, but emotional, too. If there was ever a theatrical production to inspire hope in the darkest of times and remind us that we, too, can face such adversity with grace, determination and love, its 42nd Street.
Having been described as a ‘jukebox musical’, 42nd Street effortlessly provides its audience with an eclectic mix of songs from many of the other hit films of the 1930s. The result is a beautifully choreographed show that both musical veterans and novices can equally enjoy, making it an even more perfect show to watch today.
This recorded production has been brought to us by The Show Must Go On!, the UK’s theatre support fund, via YouTube, making the musical truly accessible for all – for a limited 48 hours that is. If any show could demonstrate the important representative function of theatre, as well as just the sheer enjoyment it inspires, it is 42nd Street. Watching this musical truly reminds us of how pertinent it is to support the arts now more than ever. This could be by donating to many of the current arts fundraising efforts going on around the world, from Broadway Cares to Acting for Others, as well as supporting our very own NHS frontline workers making the possibility of live theatre someday soon a reality again.
42nd Street truly reminds us what a joy it is to watch theatre, whether it be live or streamed, and therefore how crucial it is to fight for it.
Words by Emily Radakovic.
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