It’s Showtime!

Lavish student production of “42nd Street” now playing at the Kasser Theater.

500 costumes, 100 wigs, 22 musicians and 96 dancing feet add up to a hit as Montclair State students bring 42nd Street, the extravagant, award-winning, long-running Broadway musical, to life at the Kasser Theater.

Based on the Academy Award-nominated 1933 movie of the same name, the 1980 Broadway musical won the Tony Award for Best Musical. In 2001, it again took home the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.

The University’s production of the iconic backstage success story, which will run from February 28 to March 8, is just as lavish as the Broadway originals.

“All 500 of the costumes were designed by Roger Kirk for the 2001 Broadway revival,” says Theatre and Dance professor Clay James, who is the show’s director. Built for the European tour, the costumes and the more than 600 hats, bow ties, gloves and other accessories that go with them are rented from Troika Entertainment, a leading musical theatre production firm. Costume Shop Supervisor Judy Evans, who is coordinating all the fittings, has a definite advantage, according to James. “It just so happens that she worked on building the 2001 Broadway production and so is very familiar with Kirk’s designs.”

Natalie Perez-Duel, who is playing the role of Peggy Sawyer, has a lot of costume changes. “In the second act, when I’m not on stage, I’m changing,” she says. “I’m so excited about all of my costumes – they are stunning!”

Theatre Production/Design major Derek Robertson has designed more than 100 wigs for the show. “I ordered the wigs for all the chorus and styled them myself, with the help of three other students,” he says. “I designed the wigs for the five principal female characters, and had a company called Wigboys realize those designs with much higher quality wigs.”

Robertson doesn’t just make wigs. He is playing the part of Bert Barry in 42nd Street. “I love character roles. I am quite a character myself, so this role fits me,” Robertson says. “Bert gets a lot of laughs.”

Chris Cherin, a junior who hopes to receive his BFA degree in Musical Theatre in May 2015, is playing leading man Julian Marsh. “The thing I most enjoy about playing Julian is his natural commanding presence,” he says. “The character gives me the ability to develop a deep sense of confidence.”

Right from the start, Cherin was determined to land the part. “When I was younger, my mother would sing ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ to me, which is a big reason I wanted the role so badly. Now I can sing it back to her!”

For James, making the decision to stage the celebrated musical was easy. “Our students need the opportunity to continue to grow as performers and apply the dance technique they are learning in class, especially tap dance,” says James.

“We’re basing our production on the original choreography of the late Gower Champion. Broadway and regional productions almost always return to the original staging. If our students are familiar with the original choreography, it is most certainly a step up in the audition process for professional roles,” he adds.

Patrice Dlugos brings first-hand experience to her role as the show’s associate choreographer. “She performed in the original Broadway production and is helping to reconstruct the original choreography,” explains James.

The production is faithful to the original in other ways as well. “We are building all the sets here on campus. We had the good fortune of reaching out to Douglas Schmidt, who designed the scenery for the Broadway revival and adapted his original designs to fit the Kasser Theater,” says James. Schmidt’s assistant Martin Flynn is working with the crew to bring the production to scenic life. A 75-student crew has built the sets and is running the production.

A 22-member student orchestra led by veteran Broadway conductor Greg Dlugos sets toes tapping to showstoppers like “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “We’re in the Money,” and, of course, “Forty-Second Street” from the moment the curtain rises to the actors’ final bows.

For James, the rewards extend beyond directing such a professional caliber production. “My favorite thing is witnessing the growth of performance and production skills in the students – and knowing they feel they are part of something pretty special.”

Tickets are on sale now for the March 1 – March 8 performances of 42nd Street. For more information and tickets, visit Peak Performances.

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