Tyler Hanes as Billy Lawlor sings “We’re in the Money” in Maine State Music Theatre’s “42nd Street.”
There aren't many promises that one can make without hesitation, but "42nd Street" choreographer Michael Lichtefeld promises that "We're going to make the audience go, 'Oh, my god.' We're going to knock your socks off."
The extravagant dance musical closes the summer season of the Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick, running through Aug. 25 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus.
Based on a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and an Oscar-nominated 1933 film adaptation, "42nd Street" is a legendary show. It's about taking chances, achieving stardom and trusting your instincts and talents to achieve your best in show business.
Set on Broadway during the Great Depression, the musical celebrates small-town heroes who succeed under the pressure of the big city. It is full of music that's familiar to most fans of modern musical theater, and it's chock-full of high-energy tap and dance numbers.
Lichtefeld was dancing on Broadway in "Evita" when "42nd Street" opened in 1980. The latter show was the talk of the town.
"This came into town, and it just exploded. It was an amazing show. A thrilling show," he said. "Everybody knew it was the big show of the year, and everybody expected it would win all the awards."
"42nd Street" did well with the awards, but it did not clean up. It won a Tony Award for best musical and best choreography, as well as two Drama Desk awards. A 2001 revival also won for best revival of a musical.
Nonetheless, it became a long-running hit, and remains one of the best-known musicals in modern theater.
Lichtefeld and director Charles Repole have done this show together several times. Like his choreographer, Repole was working on Broadway when "42nd Street" came to town.
"This hit Broadway, and there was this enormous excitement," Repole said. "Everybody was talking about it. Everybody went to see it. That time in New York was so exciting."
Along with music director Jason Wetzel, Repole and Lichtefeld are aiming to recreate that same sense of excitement and anticipation with the Maine State production. They have a cast of what Repole calls "triple threats." Everybody can sing, dance and act.
For Wetzel, the biggest challenge is getting the cast to relearn the music. All but one or two of these tunes are standards, and everybody knows them by heart and has been singing them for years. But singing them for fun and singing them in a staged production are two different things, Wetzel said.
Among the songs people will recognize: "We're in the Money," "I Only Have Eyes for You" and "Shuffle off to Buffalo."
The cast includes Broadway veterans, Maine State veterans and several newcomers. Among the headliners is Alessa Neck, who plays one of the stars of the show, Peggy Sawyer. Neeck was part of the original Broadway cast of "White Christmas."
Patrick Ryan Sullivan, who plays Julian Marsh, has played this role on Broadway and on a national tour. This is his first time at Maine State.
Among the familiar names returning to Maine State are Karen K. Edissi, Charis Leos, Raymond Marc Dumont and Glenn Anderson.
There's a large ensemble of dancers, and this show is nothing if not a dance wonder.
"It is pretty dazzling," Repole says. "This show is called a 'musical extravaganza,' and it is. That is exactly what it is."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:
Portland actor Glenn Anderson as Abner Dillon shares the spotlight with Maine State Music Theatre veteran Karen K. Edissi, who plays Dorothy Brock. “42nd Street” also includes Broadway actors and some newcomers. It runs through Aug. 25 at the Pickard Theater at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.