Gig review: 42nd Street, Edinburgh Playhouse

42nd Street at the Playhouse
42nd Street at the Playhouse
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So, big breaks don’t happen like they do in 42nd Street, do they? Just ask Catherine Zeta Jones.

42nd Street

Edinburgh Playhouse

Star rating: * * *

In 1984, in a case of life mirroring art, legend has it that Jones was a chorus girl on 42nd Street.

After both the lead and the understudy had to pull out, she took over the role of young up-and-coming star Peggy, a feisty girl who saves the show after being plucked from the chorus to headline the musical that is at the epicentre of 42nd Street.

Then there’s the case of Dave Willetts, who plays impresario Julian Marsh in this tour of the show.

With no formal theatrical training, Willetts worked his way from the chorus of Les Miserables to become the lead, Jean Valjean, on the West End.

Perhaps the moral of 42nd Street is that talent will out.

A love letter to 1930s Broadway, on the surface 42nd Street is a vapid feel- good musical with catchy tunes and a giant, cheesy grin on its face.

Actually, there’s not much more than surface to 42nd Street, very little character development, no real plot and a lacklustre ending.

What saves the musical from becoming a backdrop to that nice post-dinner nap you’ve been fighting all evening is a sterling cast.

Marti Webb beautifully portrays ageing star Dorothy Brock; Willetts is gruff yet accessible and Jessica Punch plays Peggy Sawyer with a great deal of charm, if not the charisma the part demands.

Staying true to its 30s roots, there’s so much flesh on show in the first act one worries about the girls in the chorus catching their death.

Obviously the men have no such issue and pertinent questions about feminism in musical theatre are perfect to dwell on as you try to avert your eyes from the dazzling acres of gold lamé cameltoe on display.

While there’s nothing overtly wrong with 42nd Street – it certainly ticks all the boxes for a surefire winter hit and is seamlessly presented – the pacing seems off.

Instead of a jittery, New York zing the production seems somewhat more languid than perhaps it should.

• Run Ends November 10