Novelist Henry James said: “Summer afternoon: to me these have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Says Julian Marsh, the hard-boiled director of a show trying to make it on Broadway in the depths of the Great Depression: “Musical comedy: the most glorious words in the English language.”
As we are still in winter, the best you can hope for is a good musical comedy, and C-R Productions has one for you: “42nd Street,” Gower Champion’s Tony Award-winner from 1980 and a podiatrist’s second home in the Poconos.
Yes, if you like tap — I love it — you should fly to 58 Remsen St. in Cohoes and see the punishment those young feet get. The bright-eyed ensemble, bedecked in Pamela Keenan’s colorful costumes, is the workhorse of this production, and the only word to describe the feeling you get from their efforts is joy.
WHERE: Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St., Cohoes
WHEN: Through March 30
HOW MUCH: $40 to $23
MORE INFO: 237-5858
Their numerous routines are embedded in a story about the efforts of despot Julian Marsh (Jerry Christakos) to bring his latest musical, “Pretty Lady,” by Maggie Jones (Bonnie Williams) and Bert Barry (Tim Luoma), to the Great White Way, which Marsh wryly calls “that glittering gulch.”
Along the way, Marsh has to contend with the romantic shenanigans of his leading lady, Dorothy Brock (Jerielle Morwitz), whose dancing ability is modest to begin with and whose superior air annoys everyone.
Naturally, fresh-faced Peggy Sawyer (Jessica Costa), from Allentown, Pa., suddenly appears, hoping to make it big, and she does, with help from fellow chorines such as Annie (Jennifer Elise Davis) and leading man Billy Lawlor (Peter Stoffan).
Wisecracks, show biz stereotypes, and brittle-thin plot complications make up the book, and director/choreographer Tralen Doler knows how he wants his cast to play ’em: broadly. They do. The songs, by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, many of which were written for the 1933 movie on which the musical is based, are memorable: “You’re Getting to Be a Habit With Me,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” and the title song, for example. Musical director Michael McAssey and his pit band deliver these period pieces with pizzazz.
Little gems include the fleet footwork of Kurt Overby, as dance captain Andy Lee; the quips and big voice of Williams as been-there Jones; the perky playing of Luoma and Davis in “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”; and “Shadow Waltz,” a technical treat that also features fine work by the delightful Morwitz.
Stoffan is the go-to guy in every scene he’s in: the complete musical comedy package, with over-the-footlights sparkle. Christakos barks convincingly throughout and takes full control of “Lullaby of Broadway.” The amusing pep talk scene with Costa shows off the acting chops of both to good effect. Costa lights up her numbers from her blond head to her bustling toes. She’s a first-rate musical talent who makes Peggy three-dimensional, and that’s saying a lot in a show like this.
Oh, and there’s no miking. What a pleasure it is to hear unamplified voices, the raw vocal talent shining through as brilliantly as the terpsichorean.