42 Street a celebration
of Broadway42nd Street
On stage: 8 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays through May 30
Venue: Diamond Head Theatre
Benefit gala: 6 p.m. tonight; tickets $50-$100
By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin
IT takes considerable talent to deliberately dance off-beat and sing off-key. Devon Guard does both with excellent results in Diamond Head Theatre's colorful revival of "42nd Street." The show is the modern Broadway musical version of a classic Hollywood movie musical about staging a Broadway musical in the '30s. Got it? It's all great fun at DHT.
Guard plays the villainess, a fading actress named Dorothy Brock, who hasn't had a hit in 10 years but who has a boyfriend, Abner Dillon (Jack Rosenzweig), with plenty of money.
Money is exactly what Broadway impresario Julian Marsh (John Rampage) must have to produce the hit show he needs to re-energize his career. Dillon will put up the $100,000 Marsh needs to stage his new musical, "Pretty Lady," if Brock is pre-cast as the lead. Marsh can't afford to say no, but Brock isn't much of a singer, her dancing is worse AND she has a diva attitude.
Guard does a marvelous job floundering through several big numbers. Fortunately for Guard, the role also includes a song or two like "I Know Now" that give her a well-deserved chance to show her true ability.
Guard is one of several notables. David Spangenthal (Billy Lawlor), last seen here as the dynamic male lead in DHT's 1997 staging of "Crazy For You," returns as the handsome male lead in Marsh's show. It's a smaller role for Spangenthal, but he doubles the energy level with his first vocal number, "Young and Healthy," and does stands out in several of the big song-and-dance numbers as well.
DHT Artistic Director Rampage is doing double duty directing the show as well performing in it. His direction leaves nothing to ask for. His performance is a fine study in character development. Marsh becomes more interesting and more commanding with each appearance through his magnificent show-closing solo number, "Forty-Second Street."
DHT regulars Kristi Kashimoto (Maggie Jones) and Douglas S. Scheer (Bert Barry) pair off nicely as newlyweds en route to Niagara Falls on "Shuffle Off to Buffalo." Kashimoto has been getting bigger roles at DHT recently and this is a tremendous one for her. Scheer likewise does a fine job.
Anna "Annie" Motteler (Phyllis), Katie L. Shriver (Lorraine) and Tracey Villiger (Ann) are the leading chorus girls. David Pexa (Pat Denning) makes a promising DHT debut as Dorothy Brock's true love.
Choreographer Wanda Richert (Peggy Sawyer) originated the role on Broadway and, working with Rampage, a childhood friend, must be doing both the role and the dance numbers as she and Gower Champion, director/choreographer of the original Broadway production, intended. The dance numbers all work beautifully with "We're in the Money" and the ensemble version of "Forty-Second Street" particularly impressive. "Lullaby of Broadway" is also very effectively presented.
More of Richert as an actress would be nice. Peggy Sawyer is intended to be overshadowed by the abrasive Dorothy Brock in Act I, and that relationship is nicely played with several numbers establishing that young Peggy Sawyer has the talent the older woman lacks. The dynamics falter a bit in Act II when Brock is out of the picture. Could Richert ratchet the energy level up a bit to fill the void? On the other hand, she develops the role, gives us Peggy's trial-by-fire birth as a Broadway star, brings it all together to cap the show emersed in the tightly knit ensemble she's choreographed -- and is then overshadowed by Rampage's tremendous show-closing solo. Oh well.
Emmett G. Yoshioka (musical director), Paul Guncheon (set design), Karen G. Wolfe (costumes), Dawn Oshima (lighting), Kurt Yamasaki (sound) and Kathy Kamakaiwi (makeup and hair design) share credit for making this DHT show a delightful celebration of the ideals of Broadway and the dramatic conventions of old-time Hollywood movies.
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