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This Is London12 Oct 2018

8 42ND STREET Drury Lane

8 42ND STREET Drury Lane It’s very difficult improving on perfection but the impossible is happening right now at Drury Lane where, at her press night, the polytalented Bonnie Langford raised the theatre’s venerable old roof as she purloined the leading role of temperamental diva Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street, superseding on every level, her predecessors, including Sheena Easton, who headlined this joyous revival when it opened in April last year. Forty six years have passed since an eight-year old Bonnie first appeared at Drury Lane playing her namesake in the 1972 musical adaptation of Gone With the Wind. She has since graced the original West End casts of Cats, Me and My Girl, Gypsy (with Angela Lansbury) and was terrific as Charity in the 1998 revival of Sweet Charity. There is nothing this versatile performer cannot do, and although, as part of the plot, the role of Dorothy Brock does not require her to dance, Randy Skinner, working from the original Gower Champion template, has choreographed a curtain call for her in Bonnie Langford. which she joins the company’s miraculous chorus line and hoofs up a mini whirlwind. It’s a brilliant idea and gives audiences – albeit briefly – a chance to see just how adept a dancer she still is. Mainly though, it’s her vocal talents that are put to the test in this infectiously feel-good musical, and her compelling delivery of such popular 1930s standards as I Only Have Eyes For You, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and About a Quarter to Nine elevate proceedings to a new level. Her performance is so convincing, you forget that Brock, who only appears once in the second half, is actually quite subsidiary to the ingenue , Peggy Sawyer, who replaces her when she breaks an ankle, and overnight becomes a star. Langford somehow manages to enlarge the role and for the first time this revival justifies the character’s star-billing. The rest of the featured performers, notably Clare Halse who, as the out-oftown would-be chorus girl trying her luck on Broadway, sings as well as she dances. You root for her all her way. Ashley Day as her personable leading man is pretty nifty on his feet as well as vocally accomplished too, Tom Lister brings authority to the role of director Julian Marsh, and for comic relief, Jasna Ivir and Christopher Howell as the show’s composer and lyricist have the requisite pazazz. In the end, though, what makes 42nd Street the best musical in London by a mega-mile, is the stunning 50-strong chorus line assembled by Skinner and director Mark Bramble. Working with an incomparable score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, the energy they burn as one great production number follows another, is thrillingly, exhaustingly exuberant. The book by Bramble and his co-author Michael Stewart retains the oomph and raciness of the original 1933 film on which it is based, at the same time imparting to it a freshness that belies its age. And with Bonnie Langford giving her all, one’s cup of bliss runneth over. CLIVE HIRSCHHORN t h i s i s l o n d o n m a g a z i n e • t h i s i s l o n d o n o n l i n e

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