’42nd Street’ at Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue down at the docks of Annapolis as the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre presents 42nd Street to kick-off their summer of 2014 season. With well-dressed ladies and nifty little dance routines that keeps toes tapping through the audience, this production will put a smile on everyone’s face and is the perfect way to enjoy a night of theatre under the stars, weather permitting. Directed and Choreographed by Kristina Friedgen with Musical Direction by Julie Ann Hawk, it’s the tap-show of the season and will have everyone falling in love with Broadway all over again.

Hannah Thornhill (Peggy Sawyer) and Brandon Deitrick (Julian Marsh). Photo by Rachel Parker.
Hannah Thornhill (Peggy Sawyer) and Brandon Deitrick (Julian Marsh). Photo by Rachel Parker.

Working with Set Designer Dan Snyder, Director Kristina Friedgen constructs a semi-tiered set to give the illusion of a Broadway stage with the great city skyline of New York City across the horizon. Snyder and Friedgen keep the setting simple, so that the audience can focus on the intense and numerous dance routines that are featured frequently throughout the performance.

Costume Designer and Coordinator Miriam Gholl brings all the glitz and glamour expected of a big Broadway musical in the wardrobe department. Glittery green costumes outfit the girls for “We’re in the Money” and the boys even get shiny green vests to match. The ‘casual clothes’ for the ensemble men and women are suited to the 1930’s in both style and patterns. Gholl pulls out all the stops for Dorothy the diva; dresses that augment her attitude tenfold. An overall gallery of razzle-dazzle, Gholl does an exceptional job of creating the look of the era on the actors involved.

Hands down the Choreography is the most impressive element of this production. Director Kristina Friedgen displays exceptionally complex routines, led by Dance Captains Nick Carter and Caitlyn Ruth McClellan, all throughout the show. The tap-routines are crisp, clean, and executed with sharp articulation. Carter, taking point in several of the shows bigger numbers such as “Go Into Your Dance,” he displays a phenomenal energy and talent with his tapping toes. Particularly when Carter starts the “show-down” of tap in this number, his feet start to fly and its simply astonishing to watch. Friedgen reinforces each of the company numbers with intense tap routines that are thoroughly enjoyable and amazing to behold.

The talent ranging throughout the show is an excellent representation of what Annapolis has to offer by way of musical theatre performers. Featured ensemble members like Phyllis (Lacy Comstock) and Lorraine (Amanda Cimaglia) create brilliant four-part harmonies during numbers like “We’re In The Money” with the principles characters. Their voices are strong and well represented in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” as well.

Anytime Annie (Caitlyn Ruth McClellan) is another character worth mentioning in the sea of splendid performances. McClellan brings rays of optimism via her voice for “There’s a Sunny Side to Every Situation” and her wedding character during “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” is too cute for words. Her interactions with Peggy make her a character worth following as she presents a warm and heartfelt experience of every chorus girl upon the stage.

It’s Maggie Jones (Allie Dreskin) who steals everybody’s thunder. As the quirky comic character relief, Dreskin is a natural scene stealer. With her saucy attitude, witty one-liners, and moments of bursting energy that leave the audience rolling with laughter, Dreskin is brilliant in the comic-relief role. When performing her rendition of “Shadow Waltz” it becomes a blast of campy lounge-jazz, featuring a bit of the old-school beltress technique behind her robust tenor sound. Her featured verse in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” is comic gold; an overall stunning and scene-stealing performance from Dreskin.

Little Miss Peggy Sawyer (Hannah Thornhill) is determined to make a name for herself. Whether Thornhill’s character is crashing into the upbeat and spunky ingénue Billy Lawlor (Kyle Eshom) or she’s exchanging optimistic words laced with desperation with big time producer Julian Marsh (Brandon Deitrick), you can see her radiance from a mile away. Even in Thornhill’s most defeated moments her presence shines. With a dainty little voice and a perpetual smile on her face it blows the audience away when she blasts out “Forty-Second Street” near the end of the production, dancing and belting her way through the ‘lead’ role of the musical she’s always dreamed of.

(L to R) Dancers Caitlyn McClellan, Amanda Cimaglia, and Lacy Comstock. Photo by Rachel Parker.
(L to R) Dancers Caitlyn McClellan, Amanda Cimaglia, and Lacy Comstock. Photo by Rachel Parker.

Thornhill’s conflict with show diva Dorothy Block (Allison Erskine) has authenticity to it. The chemistry between them, thrown mostly from Erskine, is hot and violent. Erskine gives a superb performance as the diva, her attitude and mannerisms exactly as they should be for this character. Her voice is astonishing; her rendition of “Shadow Waltz” is sublime with the smoothness of liquid silk. The duet she shares with Thornhill, “About a Quarter to Nine” is the perfect blend of harmonies and resolution featured between the characters. Erskine gives a wondrous performance in this show; a true talent worthy of a Broadway musical.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.

42nd Street plays through June 21, 2014 at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre— 143 Compromise Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 268-9212, or purchase them online.

Click here for a teaser video preview of 42nd Street.