Saturday, September 30

42nd Street – Liverpool Empire

“Think of musical theatre,” says Julian Marsh, “The most glorious words in the English language!”

And in the hands of director Jonathan Church, choreographer Bill Deamer and designer Robert Jones, this musical theatre production is a feast for the eyes. The transitions between scenes are impeccably planned and executed, and I love the way that the cast used the space in creative and interesting ways. The set transforms from rehearsal room to backstage to magical opening night with ease. The costumes perfectly fit both period and characters. And the clever and sumptuous lighting, designed by Ben Cracknell, is the icing on this cake!

42nd Street follows the story of Peggy Sawyer, a chorus girl from Pennsylvania who is newly arrived in New York City with dreams of joining a new production being directed by Broadway legend Julian Marsh. Seeking her way in showbusiness, she comes into contact – and sometimes conflict – with Marsh (played by Michael Praed), writers Maggie Jones and Bert Barry (Faye Tozer and Kevin Brewis respectively), and leading lady Brock herself (Samantha Womack).

Credit: Johan Persson

As good as the leading cast is, however, it is the ensemble that is the star of this show. A dozen outstanding performers smoothly navigate the extravagant dance numbers with seeming ease… though I am under no illusion that it is easy in the slightest. Particularly on this occasion, where temperatures outside the theatre were well over 25 degrees, and the heat on the stage must have been immense. Whether executing complex ballroom dance steps, or displaying enviable tap prowess, they were foot perfect and beaming; and this ensemble must be commended wholeheartedly.

Finally, emerging from the ensemble at the beginning of Act II, comes the vulnerable and Peggy Sawyer, played with heart and grace by Nicole-Lily Baisden. Her growth throughout the show proves that Baisden is an enviable triple threat: an incredible voice and an exquisite dancer as well as performing her scenes with authenticity and buckets of stage presence. She is made for this role, and rightly continues her own rise after her star turn in the 2021-22 season’s Anything Goes.

42nd Street is a visual feast and is great entertainment for audiences of all ages!

42nd Street continues at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool, until Saturday 9th September. Ticket information and links can be found here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/42nd-street/liverpool-empire/ The production then continues touring the UK through to the end of 2023 and into 2024. Venues, dates and ticket links can be found here: https://www.42ndstreettour.com/

Reviewer: Jo Tillotson

Reviewed: 4th September 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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