What is 42nd Street and why is everyone so excited?

Here’s why you should be dancing with joy about the hit musical's return

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Musical theatre fans across the UK joyfully dusted down their tap shoes with last week’s announcement about the London stage return of 42nd Street. If you’ve never heard of the award-winning show, here’s why you should be turning cartwheels too.

What’s it all about?

It’s a fantastic rags to riches, duckling to swan, understudy to star musical about theatre life, which is one of the reason musical theatre fans are so ecstatic about its return. It follows a young wannabe, Peggy Sawyer, from missing an audition for new show Pretty Woman (not that one) to becoming its star. What more perfect a theatrical tale could there be?

Sounds like an old-school musical…

It does, doesn’t it? And it is based on a 1933 film of the same name. But it received its premiere on Broadway in 1980, which we know is 36 years ago but doesn’t quite classify it as ‘Golden Age’. If, though, you’re looking for gorgeous tap numbers, fabulous costumes and showstopping songs, this will deliver like Fred Astaire playing a postman.

Will it be glamorous then?

We’d imagine so. 42nd Street is heading to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, one of London’s most iconic theatres. Director Mark Bramble has already said: “The original production had the look of a Warner Brothers black and white film. This time we’re doing an MGM Technicolor version of 42nd Street with additional songs and dances,” so we’d say the designs should be pretty impressive. There will also be tap-dance aplenty, and what’s more glamorous than that?

Did you say it has won awards?

Yes I did. The original Broadway production won the Tony Award (America’s top theatre honour) for Best Musical, and the 2001 Broadway revival won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. The original London production won the Olivier Award (the UK’s top theatre honour) for Best New Musical, so maybe the revival…

Do I need to know anything else?

Feel free to impress friends and colleagues with the information that a teenage Catherine Zeta-Jones had her big break in the original London production. In a bizarre case of life imitating art, the future Hollywood superstar stepped in to the role of Peggy when both the lead and her understudy were ill. The producers saw her in the role that night, and she went on to be cast as the lead in her own right. Who knows what future star this production could uncover?

You can book tickets to see 42nd Street here.