There may be only a third as many hoofers onstage as in the original Broadway production and painted scrims may take the place of a more three-dimensional scenic design, but with one Harry Warren-Al Dubin song smash after another, a book as cleverly written as Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s, direction as sharp and choreography as imaginatively tweaked as DJ Gray’s, and above all a cast as all-around terrific as the twenty-two on stage at Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre and 42nd Street makes for yet another crowd-pleasing Candlelight hit.

The audience has only just finished applauding a “Greatest Hits” overture when the curtain rises just high enough to reveal twenty-six legs tap-dancing as if their careers depended on it … and as any Broadway buff will tell you, the avenue you’re being taken to is naughty, gaudy, bawdy, sporty, 42nd Street.

Emma Nossal stars as Peggy Sawyer, freshly arrived in Manhattan from Allentown, PA with nothing but a suitcase full of dreams, a lucky yellow scarf, and a big bundle of talent.

Though male ingénue Billy Lawlor (Michael Milligan) is immediately taken with Peggy, a (literal) run-in with famed Broadway director Julian (John LaLonde) does not put the would-be star in the director’s good graces, nor is diva extraordinaire Dorothy Brock (Sarah Meals) likely to be charmed by a singer-actress who can actually dance.

(Double-threat Dorothy’s “dance talents” are restricted to graceful arm movements while authentic dancers do their complex choreography around her.)

As anyone who’s seen the 1933 Warner Brothers movie musical classic or its 1980 Broadway adaptation can tell you, a bit of bad luck for Dorothy provides Peggy with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become an overnight Broadway star in Julian’s Pretty Lady—if only she can master 25 pages, 6 songs and 10 dance numbers and thereby “save the show,” all within 36 hours.

No one need doubt the outcome of this prodigious endeavor (this being musical comedy after all), and many if not most in the audience will be able to mouth along with Julian the classic words, “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”

Speaking these words is Candlelight treasure LaLonde in a role he was born to play. Indeed, LaLonde has everything a Grade-A Julian should possess, matinee-idol looks, a commanding stage presence, velvet pipes, and the ability to make a show biz cliché seem real.

Meals’s Dorothy too is the furthest thing from a stereotypical Broadway diva, singing gorgeously while convincing us that there is authentic warmth hidden beneath Miss Brock’s outward chill.

As for Peggy Sawyer, Candlelight lucked out bigtime in CSUF senior Nossal, not only a Broadway-caliber tapper with vocal chops to match but an actress who can make us believe both in Peggy’s innocence and in her drive.

Featured performers are all-around splendid, most especially Milligan’s boy-next-door Billy, Cynthia Caldwell’s wisecracking Maggie, and Josh Tangermann’s infectiously likable Bert.

Michael Brian adds dance pizzazz both as Andy Lee and in ensemble numbers, with John Nisbet (Abner Dillon) and Richard Van Slyke (Pat Denning) delivering amusing cameos.

As for the 42nd Street chorus boys and girls, they are each and every one a bona fide song-and-dance whiz—John Paul Batista (Charles, Cop), Marius Beltran (Frankie, Headwaiter), Quentin Carbajal (Mac), Emily Dauwalder (Lorraine), Shannon Gerrity (a sassy Anytime Annie), Annie Hinskton (Millie), Lieren King (Phyllis), Koda Montoya (Thug #2), Jade Rosenberg (Winnie), Ariel Samuels (Ethel), Libby Snyder (Diane Lorimar), Chad Takeda (Thug #1 and a balletic standout as Thief), and Stephanie Urko (Gladys), and though they are small in number compared to Broadway’s and a recent National Tour’s three dozen, the reduced Candlelight cast allows each to shine individually.

Broadway’s Gray adds her own original touches to choreography “based on the original concepts of Gower Champion,” from the classic opener to “Shadow Waltz” to “Getting Out Of Town” to “Dames” to “We’re In The Money” to “Lullaby Of Broadway” to the title song, adding up to more show-stopping dance numbers than have probably ever been put in a single Broadway musical.

Musical director Douglas Austin elicits topnotch vocals, adeptly mixed with prerecorded tracks.

Though the production could benefit from a more professional-looking set than scenic designer Greg Hinrechsen’s, The Theatre Company’s colorful period costumes (coordinated by Merrill Grady) and Michon Gruber-Gonzalez’s 1930s wigs are numerous and nifty and eye-catchingly lit by Donathan Daroka, lighting design provided by StreetLite LLC.

Daniel Moorefield is stage manager and Orlando Montes is technical director.

Executive chef Juan Alvarado and sous chef Maria Sandoval serve up Candlelight’s invariably yummy cuisine. Kudos as always to Candlelight Pavilion owner/producer Ben D. Bollinger, general manager/vice president Michael Bollinger, acting producer Mindy Teuber, and especially to artistic director LaLonde.

42nd Street once again allows Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre to do what it does best, showcase Southland talent both veteran and up-and-coming, and with material as strong as the Tony-winning Best Musical of 1980 and Best Revival Of A Musical of 2001, the latest from Candlelight more than surmounts its couple of shortcomings.

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Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.

–Steven Stanley
February 26, 2017
Photos: Demetrios Katsantonis

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