'Come And Meet Those Dancing Feet'
The award-winning 42nd Street is a pleasing classic that still showcases superb singing and dancing
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PERHAPS you recognize her as the matriarch Jerri Peterson from the '90s WB sitcom The Parent ‘Hood, a show that starred Robert Townsend and ran from 1995 to 1999. Or maybe her familiarity stems from her roles in movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Inkwell, Jason’s Lyric, or TV performances in Bull, Bones, The Good Wife, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the portrayal as Cissy Houston in the TV biography Whitney, starring Yaya DaCosta.
No matter how you might know her from past performances, now Suzzanne Douglas, a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, is in the role of Dorothy Brock in the Tony Award-winning musical 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theatre through January 7. In the show originally produced by David Merrick and based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, it is a role that Douglas makes her own as the temperamental prima donna past her prime who still demands limousines, renovated dressing rooms and maid service.
In this version of the 1980 Tony Award-winner for best musical, the action, directed by Michael Heitzman, centers around preparation for the opening of the Broadway show Pretty Lady, directed by legendary Broadway figure Julian Marsh (three-time Jeff Award-winner Gene Weygandt). Every show that Marsh touches turns to gold, but this time he’s at the brink of shutting down previews following both physical and emotional issues with his star Brock, an irascible, demanding diva who flaunts her security in the show because Marsh got the financial backing for the production from Brock’s wealthy sugar daddy, Abner Dillon (Cedric Young), who invested $100,000. But Brock slips and breaks her ankle, giving the new girl in the cast, Peggy Sawyer (Kimberly Immanuel), the showbiz break of a lifetime. All the Allentown, Pa., tap dancer with big dreams has to do is learn 25 pages of lines, several songs and a number of complicated dance routines––in 36 hours.
In one of show business’ most classic and beloved stories, 42nd Street is full of popular musical theater standards, including “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “There’s a Sunny Side to Every Situation” and the title tune “42nd Street.” Further, this production is a perfect vehicle to showcase Douglas’ wonderful voice on songs such as “Shadow Waltz,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “About a Quarter to Nine” and “I Know Now.” The accomplished jazz singer, who performs regularly with her trio, exhibits the talent that has earned her opportunities to perform with internationally renowned musicians, including T.S. Monk, Stanley Turrentine, Jon Faddis, Nat Adderly Jr., Don Braden, Helen Sung, Gene Harris and Kenny Burrell.
The music and acting in the show are top-notch, but one of the biggest highlights––in a show of many highlights––is the scintillating dance routines crafted by choreographer Jared Grimes, an award-winner who has danced with such legends as Gregory Hines, Ben Vereen and Fayard Nicholas. The smooth precision of tap dancing in unison is superb throughout the show. But clearly the crowd favorite is a combustible routine performed by a glitteringly attired cast dancing to the classic “We’re in the Money,” which included a kind of dance-off among three dancers who heightened the competition by actually tap dancing on a collection of nickels and dimes.
Speaking of dancing, Kimberly Immanuel, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, is second to none on stage, showcasing a level of skill––as a dancer and actress––that prompted Douglas’ envious character Dorothy Brock to get her fired, but she later––admitting to recognizing her enormous talent––praised the youngster after she was rehired to take her place as the lead in Pretty Lady. A reflective Brock’s encouragement to the jittery young star before the curtain goes up? “Be so swell and make me hate you?”
As the multiple awards and reviews by critics and theatergoers alike indicate, 42nd Street captures all of the elements of a classic, feel-good production that continues to enthrall generation after generation.
The schedule for 42nd Street is as follows: Wednesdays: 1:30 p.m.; Thursdays: 1:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Fridays: 8 p.m.; Saturdays: 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Sundays: 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Single tickets are $47 to $62. Wednesday and Thursday matinees, $47; Thursday and Sunday evenings, $57; Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees, $62. Student group tickets start at $30. Tickets for senior citizens start at $40 for matinees. Dinner and show packages are available.
The cast of the Tony Award-winning musical 42nd Street performs one of many dance routines in the production at Drury Lane Theatre.
Photography by Brett Beiner
A scene in 42nd Street includes Suzzanne Douglas, Justin Brill and Gene Weygandt. Kimberly Immanuel (below) is celebrated after agreeing to accept the lead role in Pretty Lady.