Book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble. Based on the film, 42nd Street and the novel by Bradford Ropes. Music and lyrics by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. The original Broadway production opened on 25 August 1980 and was directed and choreographed by Gower Champion. The production closed on 8 January 1989, running for a total of 3 486 performances.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
Maggie Jones and Bert Barry are writing and producing a new Broadway show called Pretty Lady, and Julian Marsh, “the greatest director on Broadway”, is going to stage it. The curtain rises revealing Andy Lee, the dance director, auditioning dancers for the chorus. Mac, the stage manager, and Billy Lawlor, the romantic lead, watch as Oscar pounds out “42nd Street” on the piano and we see the dancers AUDITION.
Barry and Jones like what they see but warn the dancers that at $4.40 per seat the audience will demand a great show. As Mac takes the names and addresses a pretty young girl named Peggy Sawyer rushes onto the stage. She’s spent the last hour outside getting up enough courage to come through the stage door. Billy tells her she’s missed the whole audition, tries to make a date, then gets her to sing for Andy Lee. Peggy tries her good luck scarf around her neck and she and Billy sing YOUNG AND HEALTHY. Peggy’s good. Very good. But Mac tells Andy that Mr. Marsh has just arrived and Andy throws Peggy out. As she exits, Peggy bumps into Julian. Julian tells the company, “you’re going to rehearse for 4 weeks then try-out in Atlantic City, you’re going to dance ’til your feet fall off and you aren’t able to stand up but 5 weeks from now Pretty Lady’s going to be the best damn show this town’s ever seen! You’re on your way to glory and 32 bucks a week!” Meanwhile Maggie finds Peggy’s purse on the piano. She looks inside and finds forty cents and a card: “Miss Peggy Sawyer, 125 Elm Street, Allentown, Pennsylvania”. She’s sure the kid from Allentown will be back.
Bert and Maggie try to soft-soap Julian about the prospects for Pretty Lady. Julian admits that Wall Street got him and he needs a hit show to put him back on top. His greatest concern about the production is Dorothy Brock, the leading lady. Julian thinks she’s over the hill. Maggie and Bert explain, “we have to use her, Julian. She’s got Abner Dillon in her back pocket and he’s agreed to put up the whole $100,000 if she’s the star.” Dorothy and Abner arrive. Dorothy tells Julian how she has dreamed of working with “the King of Broadway.” She’s very humble until Julian suggests she try out one of the songs. Abner reminds him that Dorothy’s already got the job and doesn’t have to audition. If Julian insists, Dorothy will leave the production and take Abner and his money with her. Maggie and Bert calm her, explaining that, “it’s not an audition, Julian just wants to see if the song’s in the right key.” Dorothy sings SHADOW WALTZ, and Julian works his magic.
Maggie meets Peggy, who’s come back looking for her purse. Maggie invites her to lunch with three chorus girls, Annie, Phyllis and Lorraine. At The Gypsy Tea Kettle the girls can’t believe how naive Peggy is. They tell her the Broadway facts of life. Maggie assures Peggy that she’ll get into a show one day. As they dance back to the theatre, they meet Andy Lee and advise Peggy to GO INTO YOUR DANCE. It turns into an audition when Julian Marsh passes by and he hires Peggy on the spot.
Julian rehearses a love scene with Dorothy and Billy. When Billy kisses Dorothy, Abner protests, “I ain’t putting up good money to see the lady I love kissed by no actor.” Julian tells them, “Cut the kiss and improvise something.” Billy and Dorothy shake hands instead, and Dorothy sings YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME. At the end of the number Peggy, still starving since she didn’t eat any lunch, faints and is carried into Miss Brock’s dressing room. Pat Denning, Dorothy’s former vaudeville partner and lover, is there and tries to make Peggy comfortable. Dorothy enters unexpectedly and blows up at Pat, thinking he’s making a play for Peggy. Overhearing the argument, and wanting to protect the show, Julian orders Dorothy to get rid of Pat. When she tells him, “I shall see whom I please when I please and no show is going to stand in my way”, Julian responds by calling a “hood” to send a couple of the “boys” over to persuade Pat Denning to make himself scarce for the next few weeks. Pat gets the “message” and leaves word for Dorothy that he’s gone to Philadelphia.
The Atlantic City tryout is canceled and Philadelphia substituted. As we move from the 42nd Street Theatre in New York to The Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, the full company sing GETTING OUT OF TOWN. Even though the scenery and costumes are late arriving, the dress rehearsal for Pretty Lady begins as Billy leads the full company in DAMES. Julian is pleased with the number but Dorothy is furious, “I am the star of this show Julian, and I don’t appreciate making my entrance ten seconds before the blackout.” “Are you suggesting I bring you on after the blackout,” asks Julian and Dorothy tells him, “I’m suggesting you re-do the number to suit my talent.” Julian says, “That might make it rather a short number, Miss Brock,” and Dorothy storms off.
Jones and Barry are so happy with the way things are going they throw a party for the company at The Regency Club. Peggy asks Julian if he’s coming. Charmed by her, he decides it’s a good idea. Dorothy arrives at the party a bit drunk, sick of Abner and missing Pat. Suddenly she tells Abner to, “get on your Kiddie Kar and peddle back to Tulsa, you beached whale” and leaves. Abner’s ready to close the show but Julian and the kids talk him out of it. When Dorothy locates Pat, Julian calls that “hood” again. Peggy overhears the conversation and goes to warn Pat. Dorothy, who doesn’t understand, throws both Peggy and Pat out of her hotel suite. When they are gone Dorothy realizes she’s in love with Pat and sings I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU.
At the Philadelphia opening of Pretty Lady Billy and the dancers perform WE’RE IN THE MONEY. It’s a showstopper! Dorothy rushes on for the Act I Finale and as the dancers enter a boy bumps into Peggy who stumbles against Dorothy who falls on the floor. Dorothy is in agony. An enraged Julian lowers the curtain as Dorothy cries out, “It was her – Sawyer! She pushed me. I want her fired.” Julian fires Peggy, informs the audience that the rest of the show has been cancelled and the curtain falls on the end of Act One.
When the doctor informs Julian that, “Miss Brock has a broken ankle. It’ll be months before she’s able to stand on that ankle again.” Bert suggests they, “get another doctor. A second opinion.” Maggie says, “She’s a trouper, put an ace bandage on it.” But Julian is firm in his decision, “Pretty Lady closes tonight.” Word spreads through the theatre that the show is closing. Annie and the kids try to cheer each other up in SUNNY SIDE TO EVERY SITUATION.
At the end of the number, Annie comes up with the idea that Peggy can replace Dorothy. The kids all agree and rush to stage door as Julian is about to leave. They convince him to give her a chance. Julian agrees then discovers that Peggy is taking the night train to Allentown. Although the others offer to go and get her Julian says, “I fired her, it’s up to me to get her back.” At Broad Street Station we discover Peggy waiting for the Allentown train, convinced that show business isn’t for her. Julian pleads with her and soon the entire company convince her in LULLABY OF BROADWAY.
Back in New York at the 42nd Street Theatre, Peggy starts rehearsal for the Broadway opening in exactly 36 hours. She has 25 pages, six songs and ten dance routines to learn. The rehearsals are frantic. Peggy is overwhelmed but Julian keeps pushing her. It’s “half-hour” to curtain when Dorothy, leg in cast, is wheeled into Peggy’s dressing room. She confesses that she finally realized that Pat was all she ever wanted and that they have married. She wishes Peggy all the best and even coaches her on one of the songs: ABOUT A QUARTER TO NINE.
Suddenly it’s 8:40, and they’ve got to begin. Julian tells Peggy, “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!” The Broadway opening of Pretty Lady begins: SHUFFLE OFF TO BUFFALO. Peggy, totally drained, clutching her good luck scarf, says she can’t go on, can’t remember a single lyric. Julian pushes her, “you will do the rest of the show. Without any mistakes and without that thing either.” He takes her good luck scarf and stuffs in into his pocket as the lights come up on Peggy and she leads the company in 42ND STREET.
The show is a smash and Peggy Sawyer is an overnight sensation, a star. Still, it doesn’t go to her head. Jones and Barry invite her to the society party at The Ritz and the kids invite her to a cast party at Lorraine’s. Peggy opts for the kids’ party. She says goodnight to Julian and tells him it would be, “grand, grand, grand” if he would come to the party. She exits leaving the great Julian Marsh alone on an empty stage. He’s back on top and sings of the glory of Broadway in 42ND STREET. Near the end of the song, Julian reaches into his pocket and discovers Peggy’s good luck scarf. When the song ends he starts after Peggy as the curtain falls on the end of the show.
Purchases from Amazon.com
From left to right above: 1. 42nd Street 1933 Film Soundtrack. 2. 42nd Street 1980 Broadway Cast CD. 3. 42nd Street 2001 Broadway Revival Cast CD. 4. 42nd Street Studio Cast Recording. 5. 42nd Street Karaoke CD.
From left to right above: 1. 42nd Street 1933 Film on DVD. 2. Busby Berkeley Collection DVD collector’s set, including 42nd Street. 3. Broadway’s Lost Treasures DVD Box Set (includes 42nd Street orignal (“Lullaby of Broadway”) and revival cast (“We’re in the Money”) performances from the Tony Awards). 4. 42nd Street BFI Film Classics Book. 5. 42nd Street Vocal Selections.