42ND STREET at Music Theater Wichita, Century II Concert Hall

After a two-year hiatus, the Music Theater Wichita is FINALLY back in the Century II Concert Hall and theater-goers in Wichita couldn’t be happier! There was no better way to celebrate the comeback than an incredible performance by 42nd street! I’m sad the show didn’t last another week, and even sadder if you couldn’t see it. For those who did, it was nothing short of magnificent!

42nd Street features a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin. The musical is based on a novel of the same name, written in 1932 by Bradford Ropes. The novel examines the lives of entertainers in the Roaring Twenties and is written in a gritty documentary style. The novel was made into a classic musical in 1933 directed by Lloyd Bacon, with a screenplay by Rian James and James Seymour, and starred Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers, and was set in the Great Depression. The film was choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The film was very successful at the box office and is now a classic. The film was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. In 1998, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. In 2006, it ranked 13th on the American Film Institute’s Top Musicals list. A stage adaptation of the film debuted on Broadway in 1980, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion. The show won two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show within a show concept shows the journey of an unknown showgirl, Peggy Sawyer, into a Broadway show called Pretty Woman, despite all the obstacles and complications, including questioning his own worth.

Hearing the full Orchestra was amazing! It was so lush and welcome after a two year absence. Flint Hawes’ musical direction was flawless. The show was cleverly cast, skillfully directed and brilliantly choreographed by Brian J. Marcum. Set designer Bruce Brockman provided us with beautiful Art Deco interiors and sets, including a lovely Pullman car for Fly to Buffalo, and a breathtaking staircase of light for the title number 42nd street. Another standout piece was the turntable and mirrors used in the Busby Berkley Ladies House number, to great effect. Lighting designer Maranda DeBusk created beautiful dark moments and dramatic shadow play for the Shadow Waltz. Costume designer Debbie Roberts dressed the cast in beautiful, colorful, sparkling, glamorous and lavish attire. Dixon Reynolds provided additional designs and coordinating costumes. Danae Jiminez complimented the designs with the prettiest (and most accurate) period wigs and hairstyles.

Wichita-native Injoy Fountain, which is best known for appearing on The voice (Come on, Team Kelly!) played Maggie Jones, a wisecracking musical writer, and she was electric. Fountain landed all his jokes and looked like a million bucks. It was great to hear her rich, classic musical comedy voice again, after her dramatic portrayal of Celie in The purple color in downtown Roxy. Playing opposite Fountain as his partner in crime, fellow writer Bert Barry, was Matt Crowle, and their chemistry was so smooth and natural. Crowle, who was in the Broadway company of Spamalot, is a multiple Jeff Award-winning Chicagoan making his MTWichita debut. Playing Barry as a classic old-school mugshot, a wonderful vaudeville-like Groucho Marx character, Crowle’s strong voice and equally strong dance skills made him a natural for the role. Crowle’s tap solo at the curtain call was superb.

Crowle also teamed up with MTW veteran Emily Orr (Anytime Annie) in Buffalo Shuffle Off, which was exceptional – their energy was palpable, with impeccable singing and dancing. They were fascinating. Renaissance woman Orr is a graduate of WSU, and we last saw her perform in Wichita as Feste in twelfth night. Orr graduated with an MFA from Penn State.

Local actor Bray Wilkins played Dorothy Brock’s lover Pat Denning, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the audience who had a religious experience listening to his deep, rich, resonant voice. Wilkings was the perfect foil for Paula Leggett Chase’s Dorothy Brock. Chase delivers a smoke, torchy only me have eyes for you, and we all understand why. I pray that the next time Wilkins is on stage at MTWichita, we can hear him sing!

Logan Becker is an MT major at CCPA, with a dance concentration, and he certainly got to show it playing Andy Lee, the tapping dance captain. His footwork was super clean and he danced with a lot of verve, selling his many solos, including Get into your dance.

Sammy Schechter, a recent CCM graduate, was an incredible Billy Lawlor, the classic tenor of the day. Her voice was perfect for this show, and her tapping was amazing. It’s only a matter of time before we see it on Broadway.

Broadway and TV veteran Tom Galantich was the perfect Julian Marsh. He has painted a painstaking portrait of a hardened and driven man of the greatest generation, a man who surprises us with his integrity, but who hesitates to show his humanity. When he does, we love Marsh even more. His recovery of Broadway Lullaby at the end of the show was Broadway classic at its finest.

My favorite Paula Leggett Chase performance for MTW was her Violet in 9 to 5. She has the versatility to go from a realistic character like Violet to a stylized character like Dorothy Brock. She goes from production numbers like The Waltz of Shadows and The finale of act one

with a seductive flair reminiscent of the 30s, then breaks down Brock’s facade with At a quarter to nine, a nice duet with Lena Owens (Peggy Sawyer). It was a real pleasure to watch Chase play.

Lena Owens’ Peggy Sawyer was lovely. You could say that Owen’s story is similar to Sawyer’s. Owens graduated from Oklahoma State in 2019 and had been an ensemble member of MTWichita since 2017, and was suddenly thrust into a starring role. Owens’ Peggy Sawyer was powerful and brave, impatient but not impetuous. Her exquisite vocals combined with her lyrical movement and precise tap-dancing made her performance ethereal and memorable. Here’s another young talent we’ll be seeing on Broadway soon enough.

The whole sequence of Pretty Woman the opening was amazing. The signature number 42nd street, filled with sparkling costumes and dazzling choreography on the LED-lit STAIRS was pretty amazing and stopped the show. I can’t say enough about the incredible ensemble Marcum has hired for this show. The dance was so clean. As the company entered the finale, we were treated to some perfect kicks from Paula Leggett Chase, who reminded us why she is a distinguished Broadway performer. The audience was on their feet! I’m so sorry if you missed this show!

What’s new for MTW? Naughty boots at the Century II Concert Hall from July 6-10. To buy tickets, you have several choices. You can call 316-265-3107, or you can visit them at their box office in the exterior lobby of the Century II Concert Hall at 225 W. Douglas, Wichita, KS 67202. On the web, visit https://mtwichita. org/tickets/event-list.php

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