English musical theatre is alive and well in Montreal and it's surrounding areas. The Hudson Music Club (HMC), in it's 60th anniversary year, presents 42ND STREET. HMC is a non-profit, volunteer based organization dedicated to bringing quality musical entertainment to Hudson and the surrounding Montreal area. This club is one of the few community theatre groups in the entire Montreal area that is devoted 100% to English language Broadway musical theatre.
This is not your average community theatre company. With past shows such as The Music Man, Anything Goes and last years successful Quebec premiere of The Drowsy Chaperone, HMC has proven time and time again that they are the highest quality amateur theatre company featuring a number of performers that you will most definitely see one day on the professional stage.
42ND STREET begins with auditions for 1933's newest Broadway Musical, “Pretty Lady,” helmed by Broadway's biggest director, Julian Marsh (Philippe Gobeille). As the auditions come to a close, Peggy Sawyer, (Sophie Protopoulos) fresh off the bus from Allentown, PA arrives in New York City hoping to get cast in the show. Billy Lawlor (Jordan Marchand) notices Peggy and tells her she has missed the audition. Hoping to charm her into a date, he tries to help her get an audition, but choreographer Andy (Serge Turcotte) shoots him down. Flustered, Peggy runs off and crashes directly into Julian.
Former star Dorothy Brock, (Maggie Owen) is brought in as the lead, much to the dismay of Julian. He has only agreed to cast her in order to receive financial backing from her wealthy beau, Abner Dillon (John Wilson).
Out on the street, writer Maggie, (Gail Marchand) and the chorus girls, including Anytime Annie, (Nadia Verucci) take pity on Peggy and invite her to lunch. After a “dance-off” witnessed by Julian, Peggy is cast in the show.
Julian learns that Dorothy is secretly seeing an old flame, Pat Denning (Daniel Torchinsky) and is concerned about losing his backing. He calls in some local thugs to “persuade” Denning to break off the affair.
Opening night at the out of town tryout in Philadelphia, Peggy is pushed into Dorothy knocking her to the stage. Julian fires Peggy on the spot. With Dorothy's ankle broken, the show either needs a new leading lady or it will close. The chorus kids talk Julian into giving Peggy a shot. Forced to learn the show in two days, Peggy is on the verge of collapsing, when she is visited by Dorothy and offered words of encouragement.
As the opening night curtain begins to rise, a love-struck Julian tells Peggy, “you're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star.” The show is a huge success and the final curtain falls with Julian singing those familiar words, “come and meet those dancing feet. On the avenue I'm taking you to, 42nd Street.”
From the opening number, this production will literally have you tapping in your seat. 42ND STREET has always been about the singing, dancing and feel-good factor. The storyline has never been its strongest point, but the cast made the story engaging.
Choreographer Amy Cooper has created several tap routines that make the most of the cast's talents. You would never know that most of these performers have never tapped before. The ensemble is lively and entertaining. There were several technical difficulties, which were distracting, but these problems had nothing to do with the performances which should be praised.
While Philippe Gobeille may not have the strongest singing voice in the cast, he more than makes up for it with his charisma and commanding presence. Sophie Protopoulos gives a first rate performance as Peggy with some impressive tap moves and an equally impressive voice. Jordan Marchand portrays the egotistical Billy with ease and sings big songs effortlessly. Gail Marchand is hilarious as Maggie from her opening number right through to the end. It is a stand-out performance. Maggie Owen is admirable as aging star Dorothy. From her diva behavior to her tender scene with Peggy, Owen takes you on her journey with every emotion etched on her face. Nadia Verucci and Serge Turcotte perform all their dance sequences flawlessly. As the awkward, nerdy Bert, the co-writer of "Pretty Lady," Mike Melino shines in his number with Verucci, "Shuffle off to Buffalo."
The set, designed by Jean-Claude Oliver is wonderful. Simple, yet effective use of backdrops with a few moving pieces, sets the scene for on stage as well as outside the theatre.
The lighting design by technical director Raymond Dubuc, is original and impressive. Particularly “Shadow Waltz,” in which Dorothy's shadow dances from behind a screen with an actor in front.