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HEY THERE BROADWAY FANS!! We are celebrating the return of the magic of Live Theater in the Big Apple. Broadway’s biggest night of the year is just 24 DAYS AWAY…. We of course are talking about The 74th Annual Tony Awards. We at New York Broadway Tours have more of your favorite performances coming up on our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN
Speaking of celebrating Broadway’s return today, our selection at # 24 on our countdown is considered a love letter to our community. We travel back in time to New York City in the 1930’s at the height of the Great Depression. There, a new original Broadway musical is on its road to debuting in the Big Apple. At the same time, there’s tons of Behind the Scenes drama that goes into making a show become a reality. Most notably, the leading lady breaks her ankle and it’s up to a determined newcomer plucked from the chorus to save the show. This is the ultimate celebration of Broadway itself, in the place where you “tell all the gang” that you’re gonna be there in one certain place….. 42nd Street!! Based on a novel by Bradford Ropes and the legendary 1933 film of the same name, this love letter to Broadway features a notable score by Harry Warren, Al Dubin, and Johnny Mercer along with a book by Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart.
From the 1981 telecast, the late Jerry Orbach as “Julian Marsh”, Wanda Richert as “Peggy Sawyer”, and the cast of the original production one of the musical’s most legendary songs. You may consider it as an anthem to the community that we love so much….. 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 experiencing a lot of classic musical revivals that started becoming very nostalgic including NO NO NANETTE and his previous production VERY GOOD EDDIE. The show had its world premiere in 1980 try out in Washington DC at 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 debuting at 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. Under the direction and choreography by Gower Champion, the cast consisted of…
Jerry Orbach (later Barry Nelson, Don Chastian, Jamie Rosss, and Steve Elmore) as “Julian Marsh”,
Tammy Grimes (later Dolores Gray, Elizabeth Allen, and Louise Troy) as “Dorothy Brock”,
Wanda Richert (later Cathy Wydner, Clare Leach, Karen Ziemba, and Lisa Brown) as “Peggy Sawyer”.
and more.
The production earned raved reviews. However, for the Broadway Opening Night of the original production, it was well known for being tragic, shocking, and emotional. Its high energy curtain call was cut short. Merrick walked onto the stage delivering the most surprising news ever in Broadway history. The show’s director and choreographer Gower Champion passed away from Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia blood cancer early that morning. 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. It was kept quiet to the entire company so it wouldn’t affect their performances.
The original production went on to be nominated 8 Tony Awards in 1981. It took home 2 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 Broadway revival premiered in 2001 playing the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (now the Lyric Theatre) for a total of 1,524 performances. It also made history for the Theater as the longest running production performed there. 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 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”,
and more.
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 was a huge smash, it began touring all across North America and around the world. It most recently made its debut in London’s West End back in 2017 (where it was nominated for 3 Olivier Awards and was captured on film for both a Theatrical release, aired on PBS Award winning Great Performances, and is now available on BroadwayHD. From the stage of London’s Royal Drury Lane Theatre, the proshot recording of the West End revival was led by….
Tom Lister as “Julian Marsh”,
Bonnie Langford as “Dorothy Brock”,
Claire Halse as “Peggy Sawyer”.
Today, 42ND STREET is also performed in Schools, Community, and Regional Theaters everywhere.
Isn’t this show a true love letter to Broadway?!!
How amazingly toe-tapping was that performance?
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