Energizing tap musical 42nd Street starts previews | Cynthia Dale returns to the Festival with a sizzling performance

April 12, 2012… The inspiring story of a small-town girl chasing her dream in the big city is told through exhilarating tap dance numbers in the hit musical 42nd Street. Featuring Cynthia Dale and directed by Gary Griffin, this production begins previews at the Festival Theatre on Thursday, April 12.

The quintessential backstage musical, 42nd Street tells the story of Peggy Sawyer, a young girl from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who travels to New York City with the dream of becoming a Broadway dancer. To her delight she lands a part in the chorus of the new musical Pretty Lady, but when the show’s star is injured, Peggy is offered the chance of a lifetime.

“Based on the 1933 movie, 42nd Street reflects an era when the marriage of popular music and the theatre achieved unprecedented heights,” says Artistic Director Des McAnuff. “This show is a masterpiece of its kind: a song-and-dance spectacle that tells a tremendously inspiring story. In the hands of Gary Griffin, who has become a master of the Festival stage, it’s a dazzling highlight of our 60th season.”

“This is a classic and touching story that resonates with all of us,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “With the return of Cynthia Dale, Gary Griffin’s directorial leadership and the invigorating tap dancing numbers, this production will be an uplifting, wildly entertaining theatrical experience for theatre lovers of all ages.”

Set during the Great Depression, this piece shows how the hopeful innocence and will of one person can provide inspiration for all in the most challenging and difficult of times.

“This is a story about reawakening your dreams,” says Mr. Griffin. “Most of the characters have become jaded in one way or another. Their dreams have been jaundiced by the Depression, by disappointment, by failure. And then along comes Peggy Sawyer, this little light, who has a very simple dream: she wants to dance on Broadway. All of a sudden this girl has a very pure view that really reinvigorates everyone.”

The production features Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh, the director of Pretty Lady; Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, Pretty Lady’s lead male; and Cynthia Dale as Dorothy Brock, the show’s star and resident Broadway diva. Jennifer Rider-Shaw plays Peggy Sawyer, after two previous seasons at Stratford performing in Jesus Christ Superstar, Camelot, Kiss Me, Kate and Evita.

Other cast members include Naomi Costain as Annie “Anytime” Reilly, Kyle Golemba as Andy Lee, C. David Johnson as Pat Denning, Gabrielle Jones as Maggie Jones and Geoffrey Tyler as Bert Barry.

With music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin, and book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, this production boasts a rich and exciting score straight out of the big-band era, and features a 16-piece orchestra that, for the first time in Festival history, is positioned on stage in full view of the audience.

“This musical has a brash energy that befits its subject matter, and because of that I didn’t want the music to come through a sophisticated sound system from an invisible source up in the orchestra loft,” says Mr. Griffin. “I wanted the audience to see and feel the presence of the musicians. That’s why we’ve put the entire orchestra on stage. It was important to me to put the musicians into the world of the play.”

Artistic credits for this production include Alex Sanchez as choreographer and Michael Barber as musical director.

Other credits include Debra Hanson, designer, Paul Miller, lighting designer and Peter McBoyle, sound designer. Kerry Gage is the associate choreographer, Franklin Brasz is the associate conductor and Simon Fon is the stunt coordinator.

Production support for 42nd Street is provided by The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Union Gas Limited.

This year, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 60th season, with 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28:  Much Ado About Nothing42nd StreetThe MatchmakerHenry VYou’re a Good Man, Charlie BrownThe Pirates of PenzanceA Word or TwoCymbelineWanderlustElektraMacHomerThe Best BrothersHirsch; and The War of 1812.

Cast

-30-

42 reasons to see 42nd Street

By: Christi Rutledge

We asked our fans why they were excited to see 42nd Street this season and they came up with a huge list of reasons!  Here are 41 responses that we collected… and a very special 42nd reason!

  1. The fabulous Cynthia Dale as Dorothy Brock!
  2. Tap dancing, done by the Festival company
  3. An upbeat musical score
  4. To “hear the beat of dancing feet”
  5. Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor
  6. “A great orchestra! Seriously, most of the time this show is done, the band is cut down to a combo.  Festival goers will get to hear the score in all its big band glory!”
  7. Sean Arbuckle’s “sparkle” as Julian Marsh
  8. The 42nd Street marquee sign
  9. Seeing orchestra members – onstage!
  10. The 72 larger-than-life silver coins that will rain all over the stage
  11. 1934-inspired costuming
  12. Gary Griffin, who directed CamelotEvita and West Side Story at the Festival, will be also be directing 42nd Street
  13. This amazing sculpted eagle!
  14. Sparkly underwear
  15. The amazing behind-the-scenes process of creating the set – and awesome technology like miked stage floors!
  16. A production worth celebrating as part of our 60th season!
  17. Jennifer Ryder-Shaw as newcomer Peggy Sawyer!
  18. Cynthia Dale and C. David Johnson working together again – from Street Legal to 42nd Street
  19.  Classic lines like “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”
  20. Naomi Costain as Anytime Annie
  21. Set created by the amazing Debra Hanson – a true master of the Festival stage!
  22. This will be the first time that 42nd Street will be produced at the Festival
  23. It’s a play within a play – two productions for the price of one!
  24. Classic Broadway tunes likes “Lullaby of Broadway”
  25. A portrait created by Kevin Kemp for Pretty Lady
  26. Footlights concealing audio speakers
  27. Geoffrey Tyler as Bert Barry
  28. Amazing use of colour
  29. “There’s a Sunny Side to Every Situation”
  30. If you’re in the front row, expect to be up close and personal with the actors – the stage has been extended and the actors will be tapping around the edge of the stage!
  31. A 10-foot balcony!
  32. Stage floor inspired by oldHollywood
  33. “We’re in the money!”
  34. Past productions of 42nd Street have won Drama Desk Awards, a Theatre World Award, a Tony Award, a Laurence Olivier Award… and more!
  35. “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” sung by Cynthia Dale
  36. The music of Harry Warren and the lyrics of Al Dubin –  awesome combo!
  37. Festival favourite Steve Ross as Abner
  38. Classic tale of a small-town girl who moves to the city to make it big
  39. There’s not a bad seat in the house – you’ll have a great view from every angle
  40.  Lighting and Sound by designers Paul Miller and Peter McBoyle
  41. Kyle Golemba as Andy Lee
  42. $42 tickets for A, B and C seating for April performances of 42nd Street!* This awesome deal is only available until Sunday night at 11:59 p.m.  Log in to our website now using promotion code 42917 to get the best available seats!

Do you have any more reasons to add to the list?  Leave them in the comment box below!

*Offer may expire without notice. Not valid on MMP performances (April 14, 2012) or in conjunction with any other promotion. Tickets are only available on A, B and C seating zones for April performances of 42nd Street.

Photo credits: Cynthia Dale, Kyle Blair (far right). Also pictured: Sarah Afful, Carla Bennett, Rachel Crowther, Monique Lund Andrew Eccles photo

C. David Johnson returns for major roles in Pirates, 42nd Street | Jennifer Rider-Shaw to play Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street

January 23, 2012… The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is pleased to announce that C. David Johnson, currently starring on Broadway in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, will return to the Festival for the 60th season.

Mr. Johnson was last seen at Stratford in 2001, when he played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music opposite Cynthia Dale’s Maria. The two, who also starred as lovers on the popular CBC TV series Street Legal from 1987 to 1994, will be reunited in 42nd Street, as Pat Denning and Dorothy Brock.

Mr. Johnson will also play Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance.

In his 30-year career, which began at Theatre New Brunswick, Mr. Johnson has appeared in numerous television series and on stages throughout Canada, including as Patrick Flanagan in Jitters, and Davison in Mary Stuart at Soulpepper; George Love in Tryst at the Segal Centre; and Helmut Schmidt in Democracy at Tarragon. He first appeared at Stratford in 1984, playing Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Poins in Henry IV, Part I. He is currently playing Bob in the Broadway production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Mr. Johnson will be joined in 42nd Street by Jennifer Rider-Shaw, who will play Peggy Sawyer. Ms Rider-Shaw made her Stratford debut in 2010, appearing in Kiss Me, Kate and Evita, followed by Jesus Christ Superstar and Camelot last season. A graduate of Sheridan’s music theatre performance program, Ms Rider-Shaw was a contestant on CBC’s Triple Sensation, for which Cynthia Dale was a judge. She has also appeared in Ross Petty’s Robin Hood, Drayton Entertainment’s The Wizard of Oz, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Theatre Aquarius.

As previously announced, 42nd Street – directed by Gary Griffin – will also feature Sean Arbuckle as Julian Marsh and Kyle Blair as Billy Lawlor, with Naomi Costain as Anytime Annie, Kyle Golemba as Andy Lee, Gabrielle Jones as Maggie, and Geoffrey Tyler as Bert Barry.

The Pirates of Penzance – directed by Ethan McSweeny – will also feature Sean Arbuckle as the Pirate King, Kyle Blair as Frederic and Amy Wallis as Mabel Stanley, with Gabrielle Jones as Ruth and Steve Ross as the Sergeant of Police, as previously announced.

Production co-sponsors for 42nd Street are The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Company and Union Gas.

Production co-sponsor for The Pirates of Penzance is RBC. Production support is generously provided by Dr. Dennis and Dorothea Hacker.

Support for the 2012 season has been provided by the Canada Council, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and the Ontario Arts Council.

Tickets are now on sale for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season, which features 14 productions presented from April 12 to October 28: Much Ado About Nothing; 42nd Street; The Matchmaker; Henry V; You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; The Pirates of Penzance; A Word or Two; Cymbeline; Wanderlust; Elektra; MacHomer; The Best Brothers; Hirsch; and The War of 1812. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit stratfordshakespearefestival.com or call 1.800.567.1600.

-30-