By PAM HARBAUGH
That “Lullaby of Broadway” has been a lure for hoofers and crooners ever since the the 1933 Busby Berkeley movie “42nd Street.” Ironically, it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later when the classic Broadway tale of “the show must go on” actually made it to the Great White Way.
Now, it’s at Cocoa Village Playhouse where 48 people are hitting the boards in the all the glitter and glory demanded by a blockbuster musical.
This is the third time CVP has produced this show. And by now, director Anastacia Hawkins-Smith has it down to a science. And that’s a good thing, because the production team regard it as one of the top five most difficult shows to mount.
“That’s chiefly due to the scenic elements and demanding set moves,” said cast member and production assistant Jason Carl Crase, “Our sets were designed by Joseph Lark-Riley who has been our lead set designer for this season. The set is lush and elaborate, with large moving platforms that are configured in many different ways. Beautiful Art Deco detailed legs and drops, Perfectly painted by our scenic artist, Sheryl Koby. Carving out the space and creating beautiful atmospheres with light is our lighting designer, Ian Cook.”
Not to be upstaged by lights and sets, of course, is CVP’s prolific costume designer Dan Hill, who also reprises his cameo role as a pick pocket.
“He is once again able to showcase his fondness for elaborate showgirl costumes,” Crase said. “He has really captured 1933 in his company costumes (with) glitz and glamor.”
Rounding out the production team are conductor/music director Bob Barone, assistant director/choreographer Pamela Larson and hair,wig and makeup artist Tracy Wines.
Of course, there are plenty of chorus girl numbers. For those Larson turned to Martha Seymour, director of The Golden Steppers for assistance.
“The tap dance and overall choreography is dynamic and dazzling,” Crase said. “The choreography team really hit the mark on this one.”
In the show, Crase is Billy Lawlor, a young man who falls for chorine Peggy Sawyer, played by Gabrielle Solano. Crase was the waiter in the original 1994 production. Then, he had just joined CVP’s Stars of Tomorrow program and “42nd Street” was his first show. Since then, he has grown into a performer with leading man gravitas. Last season, he reprised his winning title role in the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The musical itself has that same grand scope of young hopefuls wanting to rise to the top of a Broadway show.
The stage musical has book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, with lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer and music by Harry Warren. It won the Tony Award for best musical when it debuted in 1980.
And while the show’s story has out of town try-outs in Philadelphia, the actual musical had its out of town tryout at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Its opening night stepped into theater legend when, as the audience was giving a standing ovation, its producer, David Merrick, announced that its famed director, Gower Champion, had died that afternoon.
The story is set in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. Peggy Sawyer (Gabrielle Solano) has just moved from Allentown, Pennsylvania to New York City in hopes of becoming a Broadway chorine. She meets young hoofer Billy Lawlor (Jason Carl Crase) who falls for her instantly.
Enter theater director Julian Marsh (Sam Henderson, for the third time) who bumps into Sawyer. He casts her in his newest show, “Pretty Lady,” which stars Dorothy Brock (Rita Moreno), a big name star past her prime.
Not only is Brock a difficult diva, she is also cheating on her boyfriend, Abner Dillon (Scott LaTurno) who is bankrolling the show, which is already strapped for money.
The show heads to Philadelphia for the tryouts and on opening night, Brock breaks her ankle and thinks Peggy is to blame. Marsh fires Peggy, then asks her to come back to replace Brock and take the lead.
He sings to her: “Come on and listen to, the lullaby of Broadway” then rehearses her mercilessly. Opening night comes and…well, you can probably put two and two together in this show-biz melodrama and figure out the ending. But the people at Cocoa Village Playhouse would rather you buy a ticket and see for yourself.
SIDE O’ GRITS: 42nd STREET runs through Feb. 11 at Cocoa Village Playhouse, 300 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, Florida. Tickets are $24 to $32 for adults and $18 for children 12 years and younger. Call 321-636-5050 or visit CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com.
This story ran earlier in the Melbourne Beachsider.