I am so pleased to be able to bring the classic backstage musical 42nd Street to the Ogunquit Playhouse. I have a long history with this show, beginning as Gower Champion’s assistant on the original production.
The show opened in 1980 on Broadway and played over eight years. That production went on to have numerous National Tours and International productions and I traveled to many cities and countries to bring the show to world-wide audiences. In 2001, 42nd Street was revived on Broadway and I choreographed a new production which played for nearly four years. It was exciting to look at this iconic musical through a different lens and bring new and fresh elements to the show, while maintaining some of the famous images from 1980. This revival production also went on to various National and International Tours and most recently played the West End for two years. How thrilling it was for me to once again view the show in London through new eyes, and to continue to experiment with creative rhythms and steps. This opportunity to revisit a musical does not present itself very often in one’s career, certainly not to the degree that 42nd Street has for me.
I feel fortunate to have the same situation with another show, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which has played Ogunquit Playhouse twice. I am heading into my sixteenth year with that wonderful production and every year I find new things to explore with my casts. The great longevity of these two titles makes one realize that both have all the elements which comprise a classic musical: an endearing, hopeful story that connects to audiences, a score filled with some of the best-known and beloved songs of the American songbook, and production numbers that allow many moments for the ensemble to shine with their dancing.
The stage version of 42nd Street is based on the celebrated 1933 Warner Brothers’ film of the same name. It starred Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, Warner Baxter and Bebe Daniels. It was the first in a series of “depression era” movie musicals produced by the Warner Brothers Studio. These movies were immensely popular and allowed audiences to escape their troubles for a few hours. Seeing the beautiful images on screen, hearing the melodic songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and watching all of those tapping feet lifted the spirits and served the public at a time when much joy was needed. I don’t think that need ever disappears in our lives and I’m very thankful for shows like 42nd Street!