The Players’ 42nd Street takes a few steps too far.
By Kay Kipling
The Players of Sarasota current production of 42nd Street is a “but” kind of show.
By that I mean that for almost every positive thing one can say about the show, there is a “but” qualifier. For example: Nancy Apatow as the leading lady who goes down with a broken ankle sings quite well—but she overdoes her repetitive hand gestures and her emoting. Libby Fleming as the chorine who replaces her in the big show is pretty and dances and sings well—but her speaking voice is too squeaky-perky—again overdone. Michael Glen as juvenile tenor Billy has a good voice—but doesn’t look the part. And Scott Gordon as legendary producer Julian Marsh looks the part—but doesn’t really act up to the role of a demanding, perfection-obsessed tyrant.
Much of this can be attributed to the demands of community theater casting—so many shows (especially musicals), often back to back, with a not-bottomless pool of talent to draw from. You don’t always get your dream actor or actress for a role, and that’s just the way it is.
A related problem lies in Steven Vincent’s direction. Choreographer Vincent knows how to stage a big musical production number, and 42nd Street is full of them, most notably the title tune, We’re in the Money and Lullaby of Broadway. And he gets good tapping from his dancers (albeit again that not every one of them looks like they could be part of a Broadway line). But Vincent is less successful at directing the acting here, apparently encouraging everyone to play every action and line to the hilt. He should have relied more on the show’s innate over-the-top-ness; there’s no need to punctuate a piece that invented just about every Broadway cliché there is with such exaggerated characterizations.
All that said, there are moments to enjoy in 42nd Street, thanks largely to the deathless Harry Warren-Al Dubin tunes, good orchestral support, and the aforementioned dancing. There’s also one standout in the cast: Elex De’Juan Bornett as Marsh’s assistant Andy Lee, who dances appealingly, seemingly without effort and with a smile that doesn’t feel pasted on. Would that there were more like him.
42nd Street continues through Dec. 9; for tickets call 365-2494 or go to theplayers.org.