Theatre Review: 42nd Street, Burnley Mechanics

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A CAST of talented tap dancing teens from Basics Junior Theatre are in action this week at Burnley Mechanics.

They opened on Tuesday tapping the light fantastic down “42nd Street” and what a triumph it was.

You would never believe this cast are aged just 12 up to late teens because they show a maturity beyond their years.

Opening nights are sometimes beset with perils, but the few hitches apparent on Tuesday were something and nothing, a few wardrobe malfunctions, a few stutters getting the words out, a forgotten prop left on stage, but these things happen and it’s how you deal with them that count. These youngsters just worked round them and carried on, so well done, because it did not detract one bit from the entertainment they provided on stage for the appreciative opening night audience.

Basics have such a splendid reputation that director Richard Sanderson and new principal Andy Cooke had quite a hard act to follow with the retirement of Dennis and Sally Murtaugh. But the youngsters they were working with obviously put their heart and soul into this production and it shows.

This musical, which is something of an evergreen, relies heavily on its tap dancing routines so take a bow choreographer and head of production Kathy Louise Foster because the routines were brilliant, vibrant and entertaining and yes you did want to jump up and tap along with them. Some of these young hoofers had never even seen a pair of tap shoes before rehearsals began in May, but you would have thought they were old hands, the routines were so stunning.

Some people hold the view that young people don’t have enough life experience to really tell a story like “42nd Street” which is about love, money and ambition, but this young cast played it from the heart and their bubbling enthusiasm was catching as they cracked the large production numbers, dealt with the many set and scenery changes and added the touch of comedy that this show requires.

The story is set in a 1930s Broadway musical theatre and the two leading ladies are Jessica Baldersone, as the self-important musical star Dorothy Brock, who has a very mature voice and acted the part wonderfully; alongside her is Annabel Whiteside as young Peggy Sawyer, a talented dancer from the sticks who steps up to take over when the leading lady has an accident, and boy can she dance. Jack Herbert plays theatre impresario Julian Marsh and I was impressed with him when I saw him in two school productions at Unity College, but he has come on in leaps and bounds and his voice has matured and improved tremendously. But each and every one of this nearly 40-strong ensemble deserve praise for their hard work and professionalism to produce such an enjoyable show and I’m sure there were a lot of very proud parents in the audience.

The musicians in the orchestra were excellently led by musical director Andrew Mitchell and complemented the strong singing voices perfectly. The audience were enjoying the music so much they gave the orchestra a large cheer and seemed reluctant to leave at the end.

There are some cracking songs in this musical such as “42nd Street” itself, “Lullaby of Broadway” and “We’re In The Money” that it is really worth seeing.

My friend who saw the show with me texted at noon the following day to say she was still singing them! What more need I say.

“42nd Street” runs until Saturday and there are seats available at all performances so ring the box office on 664400 to book.