Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: 42nd Street at Upstairs at the Gatehouse



Following their 21st anniversary last year, Ovation Theatres latest production sees them tackle the tap extravaganza musical favourite, 42nd Street; currently playing its UK fringe theatre premiere at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate. 

Vastly downsizing to a cast made up of 13 compared to the recent West End production at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which consisted of an impressive cast of 58 members, Ovations adaptation can be nothing short of applauded for the mammoth challenge they have taken on; in particular within the effective use of limited space. 

Staged in a promenade setting with entrances at either end, the production was directed thoughtfully to ensure all audience members had an excellent view of each scene and number. This was particularly apparent whenever choreography was introduced throughout.

Known for it’s timeless and stylish choreography, in my eyes, 42nd Street is a production where you go to be dazzled by perhaps the most charming dance style there is; tap dance. And anyone that saw the in town production will tell you just how huge a spectacle each musical number was due to the endless ensemble members performing all choreography in perfect synchronisation on stage. But this didn’t intimidate resident choreographer Simon Adkins from the West End production, whom was brought on board by Ovation to choreograph their adaptation. 

Surprisingly, the tap incorporated appeared to be of a much more intricate and complex standard than that of the West End production, which when observing the limited space, has clearly been designed down to every last time step and tap spring. This being said, naturally at times moments in certain musical numbers did feel crowded and somewhat hindered due to the space available. Non the less, each cast member delivered stellar and crisp presentations of the choreography set, not missing a beat from start to finish. And trust me, when you are sat four feet away from the tap shoes themselves, you can certainly see that no click tracks are at play in this adaptation!

Lead to victory by leading lady Kate-Anne Fenton (Peggy Sawyer), the cast

exuberated class and charm, delivering a unified performance packed full of charisma. In particular this charisma burst out of Rory Shafford (Billy Lawlor) whom was the perfect personification of what is best about this golden era of musicals. Endless amounts of charm, and ease throughout delivery of choreography, vocals and dialogue. The comedy came thick and fast from Charlie Burt (Maggie Jones), Samantha Noel (Anne Reilly) and Christopher
Hewitt (Abner Dillon/Frankie) throughout, delivering punch lines with ease, not to mention their classic rich toned vocals. Credit also must be given to Tamsin Dowsett (Dorothy Brock) for her exceptional performance. It is clear to see why she is hot off the Les Miserables: The Staged Concert which recently closed at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End. 

As the UK fringe premiere production, Ovation have delivered a solid and charismatic adaptation of this musical classic. While the production may not deliver the spectacle within budget or size of ensemble members like the West End production did, Ovation have created an adaptation that allows you to intimately immerse yourself within the Big Apple, while being dazzled by some of the hottest tappers London has to offer. 

If you enjoyed the Theatre Royal Drury Lane version, head on down to Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and see how you find the latest trip down to 42nd Street.

Review by Adam Tipping

Rating: ★★★★

Tickets starting from £18, playing from Wednesday 11th December, to Saturday 25th January. 

Photo Credit: Darren Bell 
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