By Hoo Sook Hwang
AAP Theater Review
ST. PAUL, Minn. (July 28, 2019) — Five, Six, Seven, Eight . . . “42nd Street” at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts is a definite 10 and not to be missed.
The transformation of the Broadway Production premiered in the, Twin Cities under the artistic direction of Rod Kaats and director, Michael Heitzman. This epic, reconfigured show that was based on the original 1933 production energized Friday night’s ticket holders with tap, ballet, jazz and funk. The inspired choreographed tap dance numbers unequivocally captured the high energy of New York City’s reputation as the city that doesn’t sleep!
Extraordinary talented performers physically catapulted onto the Ordway stage. Distinctive and invigorating performances by dancers from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds gained immediate applause. Heitzman’s racially inclusive and GLBTQ cast personified a strong message that celebrating diversity strengthens Broadway. Heitzman said he hopes that the audience will be able to see themselves on stage and hear a story that emphatically underscores that everyone is better for pursuing their dreams.
From the overture and opening act to the incredible finale where tap dancers were featured, on stage and up to the ceiling, the company pushed talent to a whole new level. The sophistication, style and tight synchronicity fulfilled the wishes of an audience that expected to be awe-struck.
The cast included Jarrod Emick (Julian Marsh), Erica Evans (Andy Lee), Jamecia Bennett (Maggie Jones), Tyler Michaels King (Bert Berry), Annie Joe Ermel (Phyllis/a chorus girl), Amanda Castro (Lorraine/a chorus girl), Shari Williams (Diane/a chorus girl), Krysti Wiita (Anytime Annie), Phillip Attmore (Billy Lawler), Kimberly Immanuel (Peggy Sawyer), Tamara Tunie (Dorothy Brock), T. Mychael Rambo (Abner Dillon), Tyler Lueck (Pat Denning) and Kurt Csolak (Doctor). In addition, the ensemble: Andy Ausland, Rush Benson, Lamont Brown, Amanda Castro, Noah Coon, Kurt Csolak, C.K. Edwards, Annie Jo Ermel, Erica Evans, Aniya Heyward, Maddie Hilligoss, John Manzar, Allysa Shorte, Krysti Wiita and Shari Williams. Finally, Swings: Jackson Grove and Rebekah Gudim.
Each dance number was steeped in jazz, ballet and rhythmic tap, which allowed me to focus on the tap as the music. The variety of taps and depth of sounds were not unlike tap dancing legends (Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines and Suzanne Douglas) from the 1989 dance and drama film, “Tap.”
The cast of “42nd Street” included a broad range of complex rhythms, soulful expressions and high-energy movements. It was transformative and re-energizing. The syncopation of movement and choral singing were powerful and intriguing. Tap Dancers, as well as performers on stage clearly demonstrated both elite athleticism and performances. It’s almost unfathomable to imagine that talent can manifest itself in such an overwhelming displays of musicality and creative energy.
Tamara Tunie (who played Dorothy Brock) set a high bar of true talent and was a must see! Tunie brought elegance, power and a striking vocal range to each song. She played a highly acclaimed Broadway actress, whose name recognition landed her an automatic leading role.
Tunie (also known for acting in television drama, Law and Order SUV) engineered remarkable solos and choreographed moves, which drew immediate enthusiasm and applause from the beginning. In the story, Ms. Brock (Tunie) suffered a cataclysmic injury during the rehearsal, so the show almost didn’t go on.
The character’s absence left room for neophyte performer, Peggy Sawyer (played by Kimberly Immanuel) to show what she was made of, including all time hit, “Anytime.” Immanuel, while no stranger to being cast as a White character in previous roles (Singing in the Rain, originally cast by Debbie Reynolds), immediately graced the stage with a titanic trio of top notch acting, innovative dance and solos. Both, Tunie’s and Immanuel’s vocal range impressed the packed theater from beginning to end. Seasoned performers, they appeared as though singing, dancing and performing was as natural as breathing.
While Tunie’s performances were masterful and depicted an array of bold talent, Immanuel’s believable characterization of Peggy Sawyer, pulled on my heartstrings and reignited my belief in heroic efforts. Both characters carried out an important story line of hope, second chances and what can happen if we persist and hold on tightly to our dreams.
The accumulation of outstanding performers stood out to everyone. Tap numbers were so tightly perfected that describing how beautifully synchronized they were, won’t do the performances justice. Every single choreographed number, emulated athleticism, perfected talent and intense commitment.
Each performance felt like a cliffhanger until the next number began. The production was breath taking and accentuated beautifully masterminded costume designs. The orchestra, which appeared as though it was suspended from the ceiling, complimented the thunderous tap! What’s being introduced as “42nd Street,” re-imagined was a hit! Dance numbers commanded my attention and took me on an emotional ride, much like a rocket launching to the moon, over and over again. The globally influenced performers reconnected one audience member to, “ . . . unbelievable and sheer joy.”
The collaboration of the cast under the direction of Kattz and Heitzman drew in some fans from Chicago, Illinois. The couple said. “We’ve followed Heitzman’s work around the world.”
The “42nd Street” reimagined was powerful and reflects a collection of genetic DNA taking risks towards revolutionary creativity. Buckle-up! Get ready to experience intense levels of excitement and genius abilities, before you can chant, “Five, six, seven, eight.”