Three times I've seen the Broadway musical “42nd Street.” Three times the result was the same: a fun night of entertainment for any tap-dance fan.
Plot? A threadbare story of a chorus-girl ingenue (Ariel Ibsen) and a tough veteran director (Bob Kropp) beating the odds on Broadway. Characters? Stock. Script? Some fun one-liners, but also a lot of cliche and overwriting.
Doesn't matter. I've enjoyed the show every time, including the Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre's version that opened Thursday night at Sumtur Amphitheater.
It's infectious. You see 14, 19, 24 people in tuxes and spangly costumes tap-dancing up a storm together, you want to burst into applause. “42nd Street” is all about dance, and the opening sequence with all those tappers gave me goosebumps on a warm summer night.
Choreographer Debbie Massey worked with her cast, some of whom had never tapped before, for months — and the hard work pays off. The dance solos may be hit and miss, and the cast hasn't many true triple threats who sing, dance and act equally well. But when those tappers pound out a rhythm in unison, it's something to see and hear.
And you'll see and hear plenty. Whether tap or soft-shoe, feet get a workout on classic songs like “We're in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and, of course, “42nd Street.”
Beyond the big ensemble numbers, the show has several notable assets.
Paige Clouse, who plays aging diva Dorothy Brock, has a gorgeous voice that fills the amphitheater on ballads like “I Know Now” and “About a Quarter to Nine.” She shares part of the latter with Ibsen in a nicely blended duet.
Kropp shines with a slow-tempo “Lullaby of Broadway,” bringing heart and strong vocals to a key moment in the story. Ibsen charms as ingenue Peggy.
Therese Rennels zings one-liners for big laughs as one of the show's writers, Maggie, while Gary Bosanek, as the other writer, clowns in colorful pajamas after falling for the show's lead dancer, Anytime Annie (Massey).
Tall and handsome, Brady Vigness is a hit as lead tenor Billy, who has a crush on his leading lady.
Talent extends to bit parts, including Mark Thornburg as a cigar-chomping stage manager and a feeble old doctor.
Director Todd Brooks leads a fine-sounding pit group of about 15. Spare scenic design by Frank Insolera helps keep the show moving with quick transitions, though pacing within scenes was sometimes slow. The show's closer pulls out the stops with a bit of lighting razzle dazzle.
Good idea to keep your seats for the curtain call, as one of the most impressive all-cast tap numbers comes after those final bows.