liberty university takes students back in time with new show

The curtain rises slightly to reveal more than a dozen pairs of feet, tapping in sync.                                                                                                    

For the first few moments of “42nd Street,” they are the stars, synchronizing perfectly and eliciting cheers from the audience. As the show continues, the cheers get louder, the audience joining in the trip down 42nd Street.

“42nd Street” follows young, ambitious and talented Peggy Sawyer in her journey to make it on Broadway, her lifelong dream, during the Great Depression in the 1930s. After blowing her first chance, Peggy catches a break while having lunch with one of the writers and some of the chorus girls of the show “Pretty Lady.” Despite the fact that she is more talented than any of the other chorus members, or the “kids” as they are affectionately called, Peggy is fired after being involved in an accident that debilitates the star of “Pretty Lady.”

Maggie Jones, played by Brooke Reynolds, posed dramatically.  (Photo by Payton VanHorn)

The chorus members believe that Peggy is even better than the original leading lady and convince the stern yet gifted director Julian Marsh to hire Peggy to lead the show. At first Peggy refuses, thinking that show business is not for her. It takes a passionate speech from Marsh to help her realize that she has a part to play in a much bigger picture. 

“Think of the songs that will wither and die if you don’t get up there and sing them!” Marsh says. “Think of the scenery that’ll never be seen, the costumes never worn, the orchestrations never heard! Think of  ‘Pretty Lady’ and the thrill and pleasure it could give to millions! Think of musical comedy, the most glorious words in the English language! Sawyer, think of Broadway!”

After Marsh’s rousing speech and a little convincing from her coworkers, Peggy agrees to play the lead. The crew then has 36 hours to get Peggy show ready, transforming her into a Broadway star. 

“By tomorrow night,” Marsh says, “I’ll either have a live leading lady or a dead chorus girl.” 

The show’s director Andy Geffken emphasized the parallel between the struggles of those in the show and those that the world is facing now. Taking place during the Great Depression, a show like “Pretty Lady” was a shimmer of light, hope and happiness during tumultuous times. Similarly, coming out of a two-year period of quarantines and a pandemic, the world could use a reason to laugh. 

Sydney Borchers and Abby Mann performed together for the audience (Photo by Payton VanHorn

With complicated sets, including large staircases and giant coins, and dozens of sparkling outfits, this show comes with one goal: to entertain. The ensemble dances nearly every movement they make onstage, usually accompanied by the powerful sound of tap shoes. The leads keep the audience laughing as they take each bump in the road with a little humor. 

To further enchant and entrap the audience into the “Lullaby of Broadway,” Julian Marsh even breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience as if they are the audience for his show “Pretty Lady.” Through this experience, viewers are transported into the drama of Broadway in the 1930s, a fascinating adventure. 

“42nd Street” also serves as a tribute to the dreams of those who want to make it on Broadway, to be the “million in one shot that comes out a winner,” according to Marsh. As Peggy starts as a chorus girl and moves up to the lead, her fellow chorus members support her and her dreams. Even the executives who have been in show business for a long time find themselves reconnecting to the dreams they had when they first started on Broadway. 

“Come on,” Marsh says to his choreographer, after choosing to take a break and go to a party with the cast rather than work overtime. “Let’s go dream a little.”

 “42nd Street” is playing in the Tower Theater from April 22 until May 1. Discounted tickets are available by calling (434) 582-SEAT (7328).  

Natalie Hetzel is a Feature writer.

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