By Cary Ginell
Many people would be surprised to know that the stage musical version of “42nd Street” is only 33 years old. The high-powered musical was directed and choreographed by Gower Champion, who died the day the musical opened on Broadway, August 25, 1980. It ran for an amazing 3,486 performances and won a Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. Young Artists Ensemble’s version, which will be staged at Thousand Oaks High School beginning this Friday night, will have 3,480 fewer performances, but promises to be a thrilling showcase for its young stars.
The show was based on the classic 1933 backstage movie musical of the same name, which is marking its 80th anniversary this year. The film starred Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, and a young Ginger Rogers. The musical version, produced 47 years later, used the same basic script and starred Jerry Orbach, Tammy Grimes, and Wanda Richert, but featured a multitude of Depression-era songs that weren’t in the film. (Only five vocal numbers were featured in the film.) One that was not featured in the movie version was “The Gold Diggers’ Song,” otherwise known as “We’re in the Money,” written by Al Dubin and Harry Warrn. It was the perfect escapist song for the Depression, when millions were without money, jobs, and homes, and unemployment had reached a staggering 24.9%. “We’re in the Money” was featured in the movie “Gold Diggers of 1933,” in a typically bizarre bit of choreography by Busby Berkeley. The song was sung in this film by Ginger Rogers, who was in both movies, and is probably the only time a song in a movie musical was sung in Pig Latin. Note the outlandish costumes and giant coin props. This clip also features what is probably the closest close-up in Rogers’ career. It’s get in so tight that the camera has trouble focusing! Imagine how big that looked on theater screens in 1933!
Young Artists Ensemble always puts on spectacular shows and this one promises to be no exception. If you love classic Broadway, with a bevy of memorable tunes and flashy dance numbers, you won’t want to miss this one. See the VC On Stage calendar for dates and times.