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[Herald Review] ‘Broadway 42nd’ shows glamour of musical

Dance-focused musical delivers message that ‘show must go on’ at all costs

“Broadway 42nd Street” (CJ ENM)
“Broadway 42nd Street” (CJ ENM)

Though New York’s Broadway will remain closed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, musical “Broadway 42nd Street” takes its audiences straight to the 1930s of the iconic musical district.

The Korean-language version of musical “Broadway 42nd Street” opened June 20 at the Charlotte Theater in eastern Seoul. With its premiere in New York in 1980, the musical is regarded as one of the earliest big-budget musical productions, often represented by “Cats,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables.”

The musical, based on the 1933 movie musical of the same name, features young stage actress Peggy Sawyer who arrives in New York with dreams of being a Broadway star. She auditions for new musical show “Pretty Lady” staged by theater impresario Julian Marsh.

The story is set in the years after the Great Depression when New York’s musical scene is on the brink of survival, but every time the production faces difficulties, Marsh says the show must go on despite everything.

Though it has been around 40 years since the show had its premiere, the story strangely fits in with the ongoing virus crisis, when shows around the globe have been canceled, and those in the theater industry are faced with an uncertain future.

Musicals are all about singing and dancing, and for “Broadway 42nd Street” the emphasis is on the dancing as told by its catchphrase “come and meet those dancing feet.”

The production provides exceptional tap routines, Peggy Sawyer features as a talented tap dancer, who can pull off any kind of movement. Her tap dance on the piano has become an iconic musical scene, reenacted in films and other productions.

The 160-minute musical is certainly pleasing on the eye, featuring 400 costumes with its 37 cast members. It is all about the glamour. Cast members sport an average of 10 or more costumes in the show, showcasing the costume styles of the 1930s.

The storyline, however, is weak. It is the classic story of an innocent, kind-hearted girl finding success in a jungle. Peggy, an aspiring rookie, goes against veteran actress Dorothy Brock. Though beset by unexpected troubles, Peggy eventually finds her way up and becomes the Broadway star loved by everyone. And of course, amid all of this, she also does not forget to fall in love with the charming male lead actor Billy Lawlor.

The musical first debuted in Korea in 1996. Over the past 24 years, the musical has been staged 16 times. This season marks the 17th production of the show in Korea.

Big name actors Song Il-gook, Lee Jong-hyuk, and Yang Jun-mo play Julian Marsh, Choi Jeong-won, Jeong Young-ju and Bae Hae-seon play Dorothy Brock, Oh So-yeon and Kim Hwan-he play Peggy Sawyer.

The musical runs until Aug. 23. Tickets are priced from 30,000 won to 140,000 won.

By Im Eun-byel (