Sunday, November 23, 2014

42nd Street tap dances onto the stage at WHS - By Michelle Libby

In a major undertaking, the cast and crew from Windham High School under the direction of Rob Juergens, hits the ball out of the park with a musical that keeps toes tapping and Broadway songs on the lips for days. 
Two years ago it was announced that WHS would be doing 42nd Street in order to give people who wanted to audition the chance to take tap dancing lessons. And over the last two weeks, the show came together with lights, sets and costumes. On opening night, the curtain went up on actors who were confident, bold and ready to dance for almost two hours straight. 

The story of 42nd Street is described as a play within a play and is that of fresh-faced Peggy Sawyer (Emily Gagne) just off the bus from Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her nerves make her miss the audition for the 1933 show Pretty Lady directed by famous Broadway producer Julian Marsh (Jake Nobel).

Star Dorothy Brock (Jennifer Bernier) is asked to audition for the role, but bringing new meaning to the word diva, Brock is outraged at the insinuation that she can’t handle the role. Meanwhile, Peggy meets up with some of the “hoofers” and shows her dance moves to them. When Julian asks for one more dancer, Peggy is right there to accept the offer. 

Some drama with Dorothy Brock takes place between her old boyfriend Pat Denning and her “sugar Daddy” Abner Dillon. 

On opening night, someone bumps Peggy who trips and crashes into Dorothy, knocking her to the stage. Julian fires Peggy on the spot and cancels the rest of the show.

Dorothy's ankle is broken, and the show may close. The girls in the chorus tell Julian that Peggy Sawyer can fill the lead role, so he runs to the train station to stop her from returning to Allentown. He convinces her with a little song called “Lullaby of Broadway”. 

The rest of the story…is on the stage at the Windham Performing Arts Center this weekend only.
The cast was amazing and versatile, playing different parts in different shows. 

Senior Emily Gagne as Peggy Sawyer played the New York newbie with wide eyed optimism of someone who has the talent to be that one in a million that goes from nobody to star in the blink of an eye. Gagne indeed went from the chorus to Broadway star on the stage at WHS. Her tap dancing showed the amount of work she put into the show, looking flawless to the untrained eye.   

Jake Noble as Julian Marsh was convincing as a seasoned producer in his sharp business suit and dapper hairstyle. 

Dorothy Brock was played by senior Jennifer Bernier, who amazed the audience with her clear voice and considerable talent as an actress. I wanted to root for her as much as I wanted to give Peggy Sawyer a chance at stardom. 

Other standouts were Andrew Shepard at Bert Barry, Ali Wintle as “All the way Annie”, Jackie Gleason-Boure as Maggie Jones and Andrew Cooper and Ellie Joseph as Andy Lee. 

Behind the scenes were a crew of 20, costumers helping with the more than 300 costumes and numerous changes as well as a pit band of 12.

The music was amazing and had me checking the program to see who was the outstanding trumpeter. Under the direction of Richard Nickerson, the pit band drove the show from before the curtain went up until the curtain call. The pit included Sandy Barry on the sax and clarinet, Randy Crockett with trombone, Gabe Curtisbrown doing percussion, Kris Dow playing French horn, Cora Dykens on the clarinet, Scott Gordan wows on the trumpet, Daniel Juergens on drums, Seth Martin handles bass, Margaret McGovern on violin, Betty McIntyre on piano and David Young on guitar. 

If you like musicals, dancing and amazing singing, this is the show not to miss. 

The show closes after this weekend. See it Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22 at 7 p.m, and Sunday, November 16 at 4 p.m, at the Windham Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for children and seniors. Call 893-1742 for reservations or email Tickets can be purchased at the door.

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