Fans of the smash musical, 42nd Street, can rest easy that director Mark Bramble is not tearing up and repaving the 1980 musical comedy in a way that will make the upcoming Broadway revival dark, brooding or conceptual.
Bramble told Playbill On-Line the show has always been "a true valentine to musical comedy," and it can't support the sort of dark vision of, say, Cabaret or Chicago.
"We're not making it dark," Bramble said. "The film is a melodrama, and the novel is darker yet. In fact, it will be more colorful."
Bramble, who co-wrote the book, directed the London premiere and recently staged a reconceived version in Holland, admitted that some changes have been made to the show, expected to start previews April 4 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The box office at the theatre, 213 W. 42nd Street, between Seventh and Eight Avenues, opens March 5. Phone sales have been humming along for several weeks. Official opening is May 2.
The first 100 tap dancers to arrive at the box office and tap dance for 42 seconds beginning 10 AM March 5 will receive one free ticket to the show. The best tapper, as judged by choreographer Randy Skinner, gets two tickets to the "glamorous opening night performance and party." "Everything technical has changed in these last 20 years," Bramble said. "We have an entirely new physical production, using all of the modern technology available today."
Bramble said the score of the show is intact (though some songs are assigned to different characters) and two songs have been added. There is also "a much more sexy approach to the period," he said.
42nd Street was a surprise smash when it opened in August 1980, directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, who died hours before the opening curtain. Drawn from the film of the same name, and fueled by a score culled from various Warner Bros. movie musicals, the tuner told of young Peggy Sawyer, the chorine from Allentown who steps in for the ailing Broadway star — and becomes a star herself.
The score includes "Lullaby of Broadway," "We're in the Money," "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me," "Young and Healthy," "I Only Have Eyes For You," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Dames" and more.
Added to the revival will be "Keep Young and Beautiful," a section within the "Dames" number. Mary Testa (who plays the Betty Comden-like writer of the show-within-the-show, called Pretty Lady) sings it with the chorus girls. Annie Lennox recorded "Keep Young and Beautiful" a few years back.
"With Plenty of Money and You" has also been added, as a new dance section for Peggy (played by Kate Levering) in Act Two, before "Shuffle Off to Buffalo." Bramble said it was a chance to "deliver the actress as a star" before the major tap ballet, "42nd Street," at show's end.
"In 1980, we had always intended that opening night of Pretty Lady on Broadway would be a sequence of three numbers," Bramble said. "It was always our intention, structurally." Schedules and timing didn't allow that to happen, but Bramble and choreographer Randy Skinner have rectified that in 2001.
The book has some "nips and tucks" this time around ("I'm never opposed to adding another wisecrack," said Bramble), and characters such as Oscar, the rehearsal pianist, have been enhanced. He's now played by the gifted cabaret pianist-singer arranger, Billy Stritch.
But the director knows not to fix what isn't broken. "This is American mythology, these are mythological characters," he said.
And, yes, the show will retain its thrilling opening image of a curtain rising slowly on dozens of tapping feet. Bramble asks, "Why would you try to improve on perfection?"
Bramble enthuses, "I think it's so neat at the beginning of the 21st century to have a show called 42nd Street playing on the reinvented 42nd Street — that the audience goes into the Ford Center on a journey back in time, 68 years ago back into the last century, to see a world of Broadway that no longer exists."
The company also includes Christine Ebersole (as aging diva Dorothy Brock), Michael Cumpsty (as gruff producer Julian Marsh), Kate Levering (as Peggy Sawyer), Mary Testa (as writer actress Maggie Jones), Jonathan Freeman (as writer-actor Bert Barry), Mylinda Hull (as jaded chorine Anytime Annie) and David Elder (as tenor-tapper Billy Lawlor).
Michael Stewart (who died in 1987) and Bramble co-wrote the book. David Merrick produced the splashy original production in 1980, and it ran more than eight years. It won the 1981 Tony for Best Musical.
Randy Skinner is recreating Gower Champion's Tony Award winning choreography, although insiders know that it was Skinner who was largely responsible for the tap dances in the show (Champion's strength was more athletic work, and larger stage pictures).
The design team includes Doug Schmidt (sets), Roger Kirk (costumes), Paul Gallo (lighting). Todd Ellison is musical director, Donald Johnston is dance arranger and wrote additional orchestrations. The original film was based on a novel by Bradford Ropes.
The revival of 42nd Street is produced by Dodger Theatricals, Joop van den Ende and STAGE HOLDINGS.
Tickets range $20-$90. For ticket information, call (212) 307 4100 or (800) 755-2400.