REVIEW Michael Matthew Ferrell makes a classic show about the making of a musical dazzle with song and dance.
Michael Matthew Ferrell is one of the premier musical-theater choreographers in the Twin Cities. His work has been seen at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Children's Theater, Park Square and Theater Latté Da. For Bloomington Civic Theatre's "42nd Street," he assumes the role of director as well as choreographer, with mixed results.
Ferrell's fast-paced production shows he knows how to move actors around the stage. But his inexperience shows in his inability to find ways to compensate for the paper-thin book. This show, about a Depression-era production of a new musical, feels even more creaky than it needs to.
But let's face it, no one goes to "42nd Street" for the story. They come for the great array of songs ("We're in the Money" and "Dames") and for the dancing. And there, Ferrell excels. This is the ultimate dance musical, and he has molded a strong chorus that demonstrates commitment with every step. The tapping is nothing short of amazing.
Ferrell stages some spectacular Busby Berkeley-esque numbers that are enlivened by the creatively elaborate sets (by Robin McIntyre) and the witty costumes (Ed Gleeman).
The show's jazz-band orchestrations are in the capable hands of music director Anita Ruth.
From her first entrance as Peggy Sawyer, Larissa Gritti demonstrates a real charisma that makes the chorus girl's transformation -- stepping in for the injured star -- perfectly believable. Gritti makes the climactic title song a triumph.
Michael Fischetti is usually cast at BCT as the second banana, and he has a comic sensibility. He lacks the gravitas for the beleaguered director Julian Marsh. But in Marsh's sweet and touching relationship with Sawyer and in his passionate rendition of "Lullaby of Broadway," he makes a positive impression.
As Dorothy Brock, the star who gets injured, BCT producer Bonnie Erickson is in her element. She is every inch the comic diva, with a fine singing voice. Her scene with Peggy, before the young girl takes to the stage, is full of pathos.
Among the supporting cast, Betti Battocletti, as Maggie Jones, the tough-dame half of the songwriting team, takes a star turn with "Shuffle Off to Buffalo."
William Randall Beard writes regularly about music and theater.