The challenge for any community theater staging “42nd Street” is that the Tony-winning 1980 musical, based on a 1933 movie, is a showcase for dance — especially tap dancing.
Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre opens “42nd Street” today at Sumtur Amphitheater, and director Todd Brooks said a cast that includes about two dozen amateur hoofers will be ready. “People really rose to the occasion,” he said.
Choreographer Debbie Massey's preparation began early. She offered a free two-day tap workshop a couple of weeks before auditions, and about 15 people showed up.
As is often the case with community theater, Massey had far more women than men audition. Their experience ranged from veteran dancers to people who had never tapped before.
What's the best way to bring them all up to the level the show requires?
“Lots of practice, lots of patience, lots of repetition,” Massey said. “And trying to make it fun along the way. It's great when you see a light bulb go off in someone's head and they get it for the first time.”
Ideally, she said, there would be a guy for every girl dancing, but she has adjusted to a chorus of five men and 14 women. Massey herself has been cast in a featured role.
While Massey has choreographed tap for shows like “Crazy for You,” “Singin' in the Rain” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” she has never had a show with as much tapping as “42nd Street.”
“Tap has kind of gone by the wayside,” she said. “That's so unfortunate, because it's so classic and unique. We're hoping to get the audience excited about seeing tap again.”
The show's opener, plus the title song and “We're in the Money,” give all those tappers a workout.
“We'll have lots of water, ice and big fans backstage,” Massey said, since the show is done outdoors on warm summer nights. “The running joke is we'll all lose about 10 pounds by the time this show opens. It's a great workout.”
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