By Myra Chanin . . .
Recently I adored two musicals, both packed from stage left to stage right with chorines and hoofers exultantly tap, tap, tapping everyone’s troubles away. I’ve previously reviewed the extremely professional, Broadway quality of The Wick Theater’s Anything Goes. Now, here’s the scoop on the other one: Lynn University’s musical theater students gave the pros a run for their money with their quintessential tap-dancing extravaganza tap—Forty-Second Street.
What makes me a maven on tap dancing? For two years, during my forties, week after week I inched my way down a flight of dangerously steep stairs to the brightly lit, mirrored walls to South Philadelphia’s Rosemarie Piccolo School of Music and Dance in a basement on Broad Street near a subway line. Our class of five middle-aged women consisted of me, two top Philly real estate sales gals, one National Book Award winner and the owner of a PR firm, married to the partner of Philadelphia’s second most renowned architect. Eventually Rosemarie considered our shuffle ball, ball change, step-heel, heel step and single buffalo steps, worthy of two numbers in her annual dance recital while the four-year-olds and the ballerinas in blue tutus groups only got to do their thing once. Was it our bonus for our PR lady finagling a full-page feature in the Philadelphia Inquirer about our Terpsichorean aspirations or our guilting 70 of Philadelphia’s most sophisticated elite into buying tickets and enduring the entire program in order to get into the cheesecake tasting I hosted following our dance debuts.
I arrived at Lynn University’s Wold Performing Arts Center early enough to enjoy the orchestra rehearsing with skill and verve. Most are students of Lynn’s Conservatory of Music and although their names are listed in the program, they are usually taken for granted. But, I’m going to give them recognition the quality of their artistry deserves: Andres Borja on horn; Luis Pulido, Juan Guillermo Diaz, Jafet Diaz Martin and Daniel Meneses on trumpets; Miguelangel Garcia Marquez and Fabiola Parra on trombones; Jeremiah Grace on percussion; Yuban Zhang on harp; Ethan Sanchez on guitar; Julian Rauh on bass; and Aneliya Novikova on synthesizer (reed section). Darren Matias, on banjo and piano, is a seasoned performer who placed first in 2017’s Liszt International Competition and teaches in Lynn’s musical theater program. Here’s a bravo to all and a special bravo to their conductor, Dr. Jon Robertson, the highly accredited Dean of Lynn’s Conservatory of Music, whose syncopated head and shoulders danced to the rhythm of the Forty-Second Street’s dozen plus classic hits along with my feet.
Forty-Second Street is an ambitious and expensive undertaking. Lots of scenes, lots of dancers and lots of costume changes (for a cast of 30!) requires a decent outlay of cash. Fortunately, Elaine J. Wold— the Wold on the marquee of Lynn’s Performing Arts Center, also the Musical Drama Department’s guardian angel—offered enough help to become the exclusive production sponsor of the show.
The conductor tapped his baton and struck up the band which, in professional unison, sent lilting melodies into the air. When the curtain rose, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was Hedwyn Lamy, the serial barber of Fleet Street from Lynn’s previous production, Sweeney Todd, where he’d demonstrated his skill at deadly close shaves. Now he was swinging, swaying, beating out rhythms, leaping up on his toes like a Nicholas Brother. Who knew?
The plot? The time: 1929. In first rate performances, Broadway producer Julian Marsh (Scott Leavitt) has lost everything in the crash. His only hope of recouping his fortune is to make Pretty Lady, his current show, into a hit. The star he hired, Dorothy Brock (Hannah Hick) is the ambivalent tootsie of the show’s sugar daddy backer Abner Dillon (Dr. Jeff Morgan), perfectly portrayed by Morgan as an Elmer Fuddish, rich but stingy geezer whom Dorothy was two-timing with Pat Denning (Darwin Rojas)—her own, albeit unemployed, true love. In comes newcomer Peggy Sawyer (the triple-tapping Madison Pappalardo) from Allentown, PA, who finagles her way into the ensemble; but when she causes star lady Dorothy to fall, Peggy gets fired on the spot. As she departs, we learn Dorothy Brock has broken her ankle. Oy vey.
With the show opening in three days, Julian needs a replacement for his unfortunate star. The only dancer good enough is the disheartened Peggy, who’s boarding a train back to Allentown. Julian finds her, unfires her, and convinces her that “those hundred kids in the chorus will lose their jobs unless she can learn every line, song, and dance in the show in the next three days, go out on stage as a youngster but return as a star!” Spoiler alert! Peggy Sawyer saves the show and saves the day.
Director/Choreographer/Danielle Jolie Dale-Hancock deserves enormous praise for her miraculous direction and exciting choreography. She kept the performance fast and happy, and comparatively reasonably inexpensive by replacing some sets with striking, colorful, dazzling costumes. Adam Simpson helped with sets, especially the train station and the train to Buffalo, which were a study in style and economy.
And everybody in the show, except Sugar Daddy, dances like a dream. As for Madison Pappalardo, she dances better and fast backwards than anyone I’ve watched facing front.
Lynn University’s theater department has one more show to go from April 13 to April 15. Peter Shaffer’s hilarious, crowd-pleasing slapstick, Black Comedy, in which several colorful, duplicitous characters stumble around a pitch-black room—all in full view of the audience who watch the events unfold in full light. For tickets to that, here’s the Lynn University box office number: 561.239.7252
Forty-Second Street. Played February 17-25, 2023 at Keith C. & Elaine Johnson Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University (3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton, Florida). firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Lynn University