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While Hollywood has often turned to Broadway for inspiration for its musical extravaganzas, in this case, it is a film –as was the case with An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, the stage version of which have been seen recently at Le Châtelet–, that provides the material for the stage show. The legendary 42nd Street, directed by Lloyd Bacon, produced by the Warner studios and released in 1933, relates the efforts involved in mounting a musical, from the auditions and rehearsals to the premiere. The whole is interspersed with scenes illustrating misadventures that befall the actors in their “real” life. The backstage musical type format is common to many works of the era, since it turns out to be the perfect vehicle for conveying the difficulties people faced during this period.
When 42nd Street came out on screen in the early 1930s, America was going through dark times: the crash of 1929 sent the country spiralling into economic despair, with nearly a quarter of the population finding themselves out of work. Hope nevertheless shone through again when Franklin D. Roosevelt, voted as President at the end of 1932, embarked upon reshaping the economy by introducing the New Deal. Feeling the need to escape from their daily drudgery, audiences flocked to the cinemas, where they could watch films that captured the vitality, dreams and desires to which everyone aspires, with mind-blowing musical numbers and frenzied dance and tap routines.
It was not until 1980 that 42nd Street went from the screen to the stage. Taking over from the legendary choreographer, Busby Berkeley, Gower Champion directed and choreographed this piece, which scooped the prize for the Best Musical and Best Choreography at the Tony Awards, and ran for nine years on Broadway.
The new stage production of 42nd Street proposed by Le Châtelet is directed and choreographed by Stephen Mear, whom we already know and love for his choreographies in On the Town in 2008 and Singin’ in the Rain in 2015. He once again joins forces with the musical director of Singin’ in the Rain, Gareth Valentine, who will be conducting a mainly brass ensemble.

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