HEY THERE BROADWAY FANS! We are waking up every morning to the sounds of show tunes on our TOP 40 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN. We are just 26 days away from Broadway’s biggest night of the year…. The 72nd Annual Tony Awards. Are you ready for more of Broadway showstoppers?
At # 26 today on our countdown is another ultimate backstage musical of what goes into making a show on the most famous street in New York. We follow an tyrannical Broadway diva, a famous notorious director giving his career one last chance, and a nervous newbie chorus girl who eventually moves up to becoming a star. We are of course are talking about the iconic 42nd Street. Based on a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes and the 1933 Warner Bros. Pictures. film of the same name the show features a score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin along with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble.
From the 1981 telecast, the late Jerry Orbach as the notorious director “Julian Marsh”, Wanda Richert as “Peggy Sawyer”, and the cast perform one of the musical’s beloved signature songs that has become an American Songbook standard LULLABY OF BROADWAY.
42ND STREET was first conceived by producer David Merrick in 1974. He took the biggest gamble of his life raising over $3 million dollars on the rights to turning the 1933 film into a stage musical. At the time, Broadway was mainly experience a lot of classic musical revivals that started becoming very nostalgic including NO NO NANETTE and his previous production VERY GOOD EDDIE.
Under the original direction and choreography by Gower Champion, 42ND STREET had its world premiere in 1980 try out in Washington DC at the The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts which the initial reviews were negative. Following the tryout, the show went through various changes before making its way to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre and later transferred twice to the Majestic Theatre and the St. James Theatre. The original production ran for a total of 3,486 performances. The cast consisted of…
Jerry Orbach (later Barry Nelson, Don Chastian, Jamie Rosss, and Steve Elmore) as the director “Julian Marsh”,
Tammy Grimes (later Dolores Gray, Elizabeth Allen, and Louise Troy) as the temperamental prima donna herself “Dorothy Brock”
Wanda Richert (later Cathy Wydner, Clare Leach, Karen Ziemba, and Lisa Brown) as the rising newbie “Peggy Sawyer”,
Lee Roy Reams (later Jim Walton and James Brennan) as the heartthrob male tenor star “Billy Lawlor”
Joseph Bova as the co-creator of the new musical “Bert Barry”,
and Carole Cook (later Bobo Lewis and Peggy Cass) as Joseph’s co-writing assistant “Maggie Jones”.
The production earned raved reviews. However for the Opening Night of the original 42ND STREET, it was well known for being tragic at the end of the night. As the company was taking their bows with the audience erupting onto their feet, the high energy curtain call was cut short. David Merrick walked onto the stage delivering the most shocking news ever in Broadway history. This news was kept secret till the end of the show. It was revealed that Gower Champion (the director and choreographer) passed away from Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia blood cancer. He was only 61 years old. Everyone in the Winter Garden Theatre reacted with terror gasps, screams, and tears. Gower’s legacy lived on and still does today.
The original production of 42ND STREET received 8 Tony Awards nominations and winning 2 in 1981 including Best Musical.
Following the success of the Broadway run, 42ND STREET went on to become a worldwide hit including productions in Japan, London’s West End (featuring a teenage Catherine Zeta-Jones) which won the Olivier Awards for Best New Musical, Australia, and more. The show would later be revived on Broadway only once so far.
The first and most recent revival premiered in 2001. Under the direction and rewrites by book writer Mark Bramble and choreography by Randy Skinner (assistant choreographer on the original production) both honoring their late friend Gower Champion, this revival of 42ND STREET played the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (now the Lyric Theatre) for a total of 1,524 performances. It also made history for the Lyric Theater as the longest running production performed there. The revival cast included….
Michael Cumpsty (later Patrick Cassidy, Patrick Ryan Sullivan, Tom Wopat, and Michael D’Antuono) as “Julian Marsh”,
Tony winner Christine Ebersole (later Blair Ross, Shirley Jones, and Beth Leavel) as “Dorothy Brock”,
Kate Levering (later Nadine Isenegger and Meredith Patterson) as “Peggy Sawyer”,
David Elder as “Billy Lawlor”
Jonathan Freeman (later Bob Walton, Frank Root, and Joel Newsome) as “Bert Barry”,
and Tony nominee Mary Testa (later Karen Murphy and Patty Mariano) as “Maggie Jones”.
The revival was nominated for 9 Tony Awards in 2001 winning 2 for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (for Christine Ebersole).
The 2001 revival did so well, it began touring and now is currently back in London’s West End where it was nominated for 3 Olivier Awards.
In addition, 42ND STREET is still being played in Schools, Community, and Regional Theatres everywhere.
Isn’t this musical the ultimate love letter to Broadway?
35th Tony Awards June 8, 1981 42nd Street 1980 Broadway ” Lullaby of Broadway ” 0:40. 4:44 Jerry Orbach
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