The drive to downtown Aurora gets shorter every time I head out to the Luxurious Paramount Theatre. The current production on their gloriuos stage is “42nd Street” ( music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin), the standard story of little town girl makes it big on Broadway, and one that almost every theater in the Chicago area has brought to their stage over the years. On the drive, on a winter storm watch day in January, I wondered what couth the staff at Paramount do differently than the productions of the past. Then I realized that this production was being directed by Rachel Rockwell and that means a re-imagination of an old classic. Ms Rockwell looks at each production an dwhile they stay true to some of the original choreography ( in this production, Tammy Mader takes on this job) of Gower Champion, but with the talent assembled by this company, we are treated to an evening that you will not forget!
In fact, when the overture, conducted by musical director Doug Peck begins the lead in to the opening number, and the curtain rises just far enough for us to see the legs of the ensemble, doing a tap to get us on our tows ( for what is about to come our way), we get the feeling that we are in for two plus hours of pure magic. What a cast of players! What wonderful songs! What splendid dancing! What a great 2 1/2 hours of sheer magic on a stage.
The story is about one Peggy Sawyer ( Laura Savage who truly shows what a talent she is- wonderful voice and can she move), who has come to New York to make her mark on Broadway. This is at the same time, famed director Julian Marsh( an incredible performance by the always reliable Larry Adams) is making his comeback with a new musical “Pretty Lady”, starring leading lady Dorothy Brock ( deftly handled by the lovely Catherine Lord), who might be a bit old for the role, but since her new “friend” is backing the show, the lead is hers. Her “friend” by the way, is played to perfection by Roger Mueller.
What takes place during the incredible dance numbers ( there were five, yes FIVE, show stopping numbers in this production on opening night and a very long standing ovation that began from the onset of teh curtain calls) is that the “lead” gets injured ( caused by Peggy/by accident) and she takes over her role to save the show and the jobs for the hard working “kids in the line” ( chorus,ensemble,dancers- call them all). As you know, I have great feelings about the “kids in the line” myself and this ensemble is amazingly energetic and talented. Lets hear it for them:
Lucy Zukaitis,Tiffany Trainer,Steven Spanopoulos,Katheryn Patton, Amy Orman, Mandy Modic, Nathan Mittleman, Alex McCrary, Jonathan Kwock, Andy Frank, Brian M. Duncan, Matthew Crowle, Jaclyn Burch, Larry Baldacci, William Carlos Angulo, Kelsey Andres,Kelley Abell and players, James Rank ,Richard Strimer.Dina DiCostanzo,Nancy Voights ( the incredible Nancy Voigts who makes her character a memorable one) and her partner Michael Weber who gives Bert a new twist and Tyler Hanes as the young male lead, Billy Lawler- from top to bottom, each of these players is responsible for the overall high quality of this production- a must see!
The sets by Kevin Depinet are incredibly simple, and yet very sophisticated and several places where staircases have been used make you feel that our cats could be compared to anything the Rockettes might perform. Theresa Ham and her crew have some great costumes and the changes the cats make are amazingly done- off the stage in one and right back on in another. Bravo! Greg Hoffman’s lighting and Palmer Jenkins sound are ideal and the projection design (Anna Henson) is an added attraction. Competing the production staff is Sarah E. Ross and her props, a very important part of a total production along with the wigs by Penny Lane Studios.
In the pit, under the direction of Doug Peck, fourteen musicians make the music of this show come alive- songs like “You’re Getting To Be Habit With Me”, “We’re In The Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”,”Shuffle Off To Buffalo”, “42nd Street” and many others. With a score like this and some great tap dancing we are lucky that the audience is not on their feet from the very first number, but be prepared to do a lot of applauding- this is a production filled with show stopping numbers and this cast, under Ms Rockwell’s smooth direction is a delight to both watch and listen to. As I have been saying since this theater opened, the productions they bring to the stage are very “Jeff” worthy and perhaps, in the near future, we will find that Auroa ( the second largest city in our state) will qualify for this valued Theater Award.
“42nd Street” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located at 23 E.Galena Street ( the heart of Aurora) through February 9th with performances as follows:
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 1 and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $36.90- $49.90 ( well worth the price) and are available at the box office, by calling 630-896-6666 or online at www.ParamountAurora.com
There are many dining spots in Aurora, and while you can find parking, they offer valet parking at a very reasonable rate.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “42nd Street”