Bringing Broadway to Bearkats

Next week, a bit of Broadway will premier at Sam Houston’s UTC Mainstage Theater. The performance of “42nd Street,” directed by Jonathan Charles, opens next Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Performances continue from Nov. 14 through Saturday, November 17. Shows begin at 8 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for SHSU students. Contact the box office at 936-294-1339 for more information or to make reservations.

“This is the show that we’ve all been wanting to do for a long time. One of the reasons that we haven’t done it in awhile is because it’s such a huge show, and it’s a salute to the original director and choreographer,” director Jonathan Charles said.

“42nd Street” is a musical extravaganza focused on Broadway dancers. Throughout the piece, the dancers develop the musical within the musical, titled “Pretty Lady.” The dancers and cast engage in various relationships with each other, encompassing romance, jealousy and the trials and tribulations of trying to find one’s place on stage.

Charles choreographed the dance numbers for “42nd Street.” He has his M.F.A. from Sam Houston in Dance, and has performed in productions of A Chorus Line, The Pirates of Penzance, Jesus Christ Superstar, Showboat and Mame. He currently teaches ballet, tap and jazz at Sam, as well as the Musical Theater Workshop.

“This is my take,” Charles said. “I’ve done this show many times, and done the original stuff, but this is my take on Gower Champions’ idea. A lot of this is based on the original material, but [this is] my original material.”

The lead characters are Alissa LaVergne as Peggy Sawyer, Eric Aultman as Billy Lawlor, Tony Johnson as Andy Lee, Rachael Logue as Dorothy Brock and Cameron Worthem as Julian Marsh.

In addition, there are supporting cast members, as well as a full chorus. The full chorus work with the performances of the leads, entering and exiting frequently. When the full chorus is on stage, the effect of the singing and dancing is grand, making the production bigger and flashier.

“As fun as it is, many of the numbers are full chorus and sometimes it goes down to just one person and if that’s you, it’s scary,” Aultman said.

The story of “42nd Street” is told primarily through song and dance numbers. One of the difficulties in staging the musical was in the development of tap dances.

“It’s difficult just because we don’t do very many tap shows here. It’s kind of unfamiliar territory, so it’s very difficult to learn and it’s one of those types of dance you can’t fake because it’s about the rhythm and the sound and if it’s not there it’s not there,” Johnson said.

Along with dance, song plays a large part in the production.

“The singing, for my part, appears technically very easy, but the style has been a challenge to work with and get right,” Logue said. “It is a different type of period and the way they approach the singing in that period is much different than what’s on the radio today. It’s been fun to work with.”

Costumes reflect the 1930’s era stylistically with an extra burst of color. The set is grand, with moving pieces to reflect different times and settings throughout the production.

The music was written by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, and the book by Michael Stewart. The live music is conducted by Dr. Laura Avery.

“It’s corny, it’s sweet, it’s a really kind look at a really depressing time,” Charles said. “One of the things I want these kids to do is look at it that way: it is corny, it is sweet, and they have to believe in the material.”

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