Musical tells of a search for a star

42nd Street: Al Dubin/ Harry Warren, Bury St Edmunds Operatic and Dramatic Society, April 29The chorus girl turned, overnight, into a star. That's the essence of the backstage musical.

Ivan Howlett

42nd Street: Al Dubin/ Harry Warren, Bury St Edmunds Operatic and Dramatic Society, April 29

The chorus girl turned, overnight, into a star. That's the essence of the backstage musical. It's what 42nd Street is all about and Singin' in the Rain, too The Bury Operatic have some wonderful numbers to work with 'I'm in the Money', 'You're Getting to be a Habit with Me', 'Lullaby of Broadway' and the title song itself. The scores Harry Warren wrote for the Busby Berkeley musicals haven't been bettered. The packed house when I was there loved every minute of this happy tap show.

The story, for what its worth, is about how a famous producer, Julian Marsh (Ian Robertson) takes a new show - Pretty Lady - from the first cast call to Broadway performance. His troublesome waning star, Dorothy (Jackie Strahm), is calling the shots because her elderly sugar daddy has financed the show. In comes the innocent Peggy (Claire Jenkins) who gets into the chorus when Marsh sees how talented she is. Later she accidentally knocks Dorothy over. Dorothy's ankle is broken and Peggy is brought into replace her with a couple of days to go. She saves the day, and becomes a star. Julian, meanwhile, in failing health is left alone to contemplate the future.


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This is Lou Petch's first outing as director, though she and almost everyone on stage are what you'd describe as Bury Operatic stalwarts. So were many in the audience, so woes betide making any audible critical comments in the interval.

Not that you'd need to. The huge cast (34 of them and an excellent ten-piece band in the pit) are well organised, glitter in a range of quick-change spangly costumes. Of the principals Claire Jenkins dances and sings well as Peggy. The besuited Ian Robertson is nicely thoughtful as Marsh and Jackie Strahm's Dorothy is a clever comic creation.

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Perhaps some of the dance sequences needed a bit more discipline on the first night, but it is a complicated show with a large cast working on small area.

Having recently seen the Ipswich Operatic do Singin' in the Rain a week or so ago I now know these backstage period musicals with good tunes are to my taste.

Catapulting unknowns to stardom still goes on with Lloyd Webber's searches for Joseph and Nancy. I bet the old producer, Julian Marsh in 42nd Street, would have loved the BBC to do his searching - and his advertising - for him.

Ivan Howlett

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