Continuing with posting my Arts-watching repertoire… ^.^
This review was originally posted on Hello Asia!
Excitement builds from the very moment the orchestra starts playing the overture for the Korean production of 42nd Street. The crowd is already clapping along as the curtain rises ever so slightly from the stage to reveal countless pairs of synchronised tapping shoes. And the sound is incredible!
The opening sequence continues to be an extravaganza of tap dancing, under the pre tense of the storyline’s audition scene. The (meta) story then follows the production of the musical ‘Pretty Lady’, whose auditions we have just witnessed.
Our heart throb Jeon Jae Hong appears (in the role of Billy Lawlor) and he is certainly one handsome tap dancer! His facial expressions alone are heartstopping, with this charming smile of self-assured smugness. He really fits true to the role of Billy, and both his dancing and voice are a delight to behold. He was my favourite to watch.
Next is our leading lady Peggy Sawyer, played by Choi Woo Ri, who is both adorable and talented. She also has that same ability to project a radiant smile beyond the stage, but in her case its full of bright innocence and hope. Her energy is infectious, and reaches through the cast and into the audience.
The auditions are over, but Billy hopes to charm Peggy into a date by helping her bypass the process. Choreographer Andy Lee is having none of Billy’s nonsense. He sends a flustered Peggy off to collide straight into director Julian Marsh.
Nam Kyung Ju, in comparison to Billy and Peggy’s youth, is a very commanding Julian. He brings a very strong presence to the stage, and continues to be a force throughout the whole production. His voice easily reached to all corners of the hall- even with a brief mic malfunction!
I found my eyes being drawn to Andy Lee whenever he appeared on the stage as well, Yong Su Jo just had that kind of effect. The kind of magnetism in his dancing and strict expression that pulls you in and doesn’t let you look away.
The big wow of the production, though, is Hong Ji Min in the role of the prima donna Dorothy Brock. What an incredible voice! The strength of her ballads reaches into the audience and captures your breath. You can really feel the emotions she expresses- through the thrill of her affair, the frustration of her marriage, the mindless panic of being on the verge of losing the one you truly love, and then the final happiness of finding what was most important to you.
Naturally the story taps along through Pretty Lady’s rehearsals and the eventual casting of Peggy in the lead role. She takes a little convincing of course, but nothing a energetic “at-the-railway-station-to-stop-her-from-leaving” song and dance with the whole cast won’t fix! Julian is completely in love with her at this point, but this production doesn’t really put a lot of emphasise into this, rather focusing on the support between Dorothy and Peggy. Julian does utter the iconic line to thunderous applause from the audience though- “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”
The cast truly works well together throughout the whole production. In particular the chorus line, rather than being seen as merely the “support”, actually takes a more integrated role with the main cast. This forms a really crucial element for the overall presence of the stage- making the whole production feel very balanced and coordinated.
The large stage is kept almost empty for the entire production, with a limited use of staging and props. This allows the actors to dance freely across the stage and utilise the space to it’s greatest advantage. The defining element of 42nd Street is definitely it’s tap dance routines- the choreography, sound and synchronisation is absolutely incredible. Small mics attached to the tap shoes make sure to pick up each of the perfectly synchronised steps, and the sound merges seamlessly with the orchestra.
Instead of dazzling the audience with sets, 42nd Street uses its grand and ultra glitzy costumes to fill the role. Endless sequins, sparkle and glam speed across the stage, with almost as many costume changes as dance routines!
Overall 42nd Street is full of energy, talent and is just really enjoyable to watch! The tap dancing alone demonstrates a polished production with an incredibly skilled cast, and I often felt absolutely dazzled (and exhausted!) by the sheer athleticism. This is a musical for everyone- if you can, go along and be dazzled!
“Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue I’m taking you to… 42nd Street.”
42nd Street is showing at the Seoul Arts Center, CJ Towol Theater from the 8th of July until the 31st August. The reviewer attended the performance on 16th July.