Naughty, Gaudy, Bawdy: 42nd Street Gets May 2001 Revival at Ford Center

News   Naughty, Gaudy, Bawdy: 42nd Street Gets May 2001 Revival at Ford Center Those dancing feet" of the Broadway smash, 42nd Street, will actually dance on 42nd Street in May 2001, when a revival of the showbiz legend opens at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.
James Brennan, Karen Ziemba (center) and company from 42nd Street's original run.
James Brennan, Karen Ziemba (center) and company from 42nd Street's original run. (Photo by Photo by Martha Swope Associates, Carol Rosegg)

Those dancing feet" of the Broadway smash, 42nd Street, will actually dance on 42nd Street in May 2001, when a revival of the showbiz legend opens at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

A spokesman for the show confirmed that Dodger Theatricals is producing the revival, to be directed by the 1980 show's co- librettist, Mark Bramble. The Ford Center, previously home to Ragtime and Jesus Christ Superstar, has entrances on both 42nd and 43rd Streets. Dodger Theatricals is known for its hit revivals of Guys and Dolls and The King and I.

Randy Skinner will recreate Gower Champion's choreography. It is known in the theatre community that it was, in fact, Skinner who created the tap routines for the splashy fable based on the 1933 movie musical. Champion was not known for taps but rather for his athletic routines, strutting and marches (Hello, Dolly!).

The Dutch producer Endemol is thought to be involved in the new U.S. production. There is a popular Dutch-language revival in Amsterdam at the moment, directed by Bramble, with musical staging by Skinner.

No casting or design team has been announced, but it is thought Theoni Aldredge (The Best Man, both 1960 and 2000) will recreate her costume design. David Merrick produced the original production, which opened at the Winter Garden Theatre Aug. 25, 1980. It was an instant legend — and hit — on its opening night, when Merrick announced at the curtain that director-choreographer Gower Champion had died that very day.

Merrick died earlier this year and his office is not thought to be involved in the revival.

The show subsequently moved to the Majestic and St. James Theatres, losing some of its opulent Robin Wagner set with each move due to the smaller sizes of the theatres. The cast size was scaled back after the Majestic as well.

The frivolous musical is drawn from the old Warner Bros. picture about the newcomer from the boondocks joining a Broadway chorus and taking over for the ailing star. The Al Dubin-Harry Warren score of the picture includes "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me," the title number and more.

For the stage, the score was augmented by other Warren-Dubin songs from other Busby Berkeley-directed pictures. The Broadway score eventually included "Young and Healthy," "Shadow Waltz," "We're in the Money," "Getting Out of Town," "Sunny Side to Every Situation," "About a Quarter to Nine," "Lullaby of Broadway," "I Know Now" and "Go Into Your Dance."

The original cast featured Jerry Orbach as producer Julian Marsh, newcomer Wanda Richert as newcomer Peggy Sawyer (the kid form Allentown who happens to be able to "dance circles around" even the most accomplished veteran hoofers), Lee Roy Reams as tenor-dancer Billy Lawlor and Tammy Grimes as aging diva Dorothy Brock.

The revival opening is expected near the Tony Award season eligibility cut-off date, around May 1, 2001. Expect previews by April. The show won the Best Musical Tony Award in 1981.

— By Kenneth Jones