Meet those dancing feet

42nd Street sells out MAC, leads to record tying nine GAHSMTA nominations


Gabby Sherwood

The writers of “Pretty Lady,” the show that “42nd Street” follows, lead the actors of the show in the number “Getting Out of Town” where they celebrate “Pretty Lady” beginning its touring run.

Olivia Watts, staff reporter

Almost a month after MacTheatre closed its production of 42nd Street, the cast and crew are still reaping the rewards from their sold out musical.

Tuesday morning, members from the cast and crew of 42nd Street headed to the Long Center to attend the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards nomination ceremony where MacTheatre received nine nominations. The nine nominations ties 2017’s Me and My Girl as the most nominated musical in MacTheatre history. The nominations include best actor in a supporting role to junior Tosh Arora, best actress in a supporting role to junior Lilah Guaragna, best featured performer to junior Owen Scales, best technical execution, best musical direction, best production, best ensemble, best orchestra and best choreography.

“[Being nominated] was very rewarding, and I’m very proud of everyone,” senior Sophie Petrosky said. “It’s nice to be nominated for all of our hard work.”

[Being nominated] was very rewarding, and I’m very proud of everyone. It’s nice to be nominated for all of our hard work.

— senior prop head Sophie Petrosky

The drama, lights and showmanship of Broadway took over the McCallum Arts Center as 42nd Street took center stage from Jan. 31 through Feb. 7. The show first hit the stage in 1980. The stage version of 42nd Street originated as a 1930s movie that was based on a book of the same name. The writer of the book, Bradford Ropes, based the story line off of a personal experience he had lived through in the theatre.

42nd Street follows a young singer, dancer and actress named Peggy Sawyer (Helena Laing) who has just been cast in an up-and-coming Broadway show, Pretty Lady, as a chorus member. In that role, she is introduced to the world of Broadway divas and harsh directors. The show faces many challenges as the actors go through relationship struggles and changing roles during the rehearsal process and opening of the show.

Compared to last year’s production of West Side Story, 42nd Street must have seemed a little more lighthearted. West Side Story was heavy on violence and forbidden love including murders and gang violence. Arora, who played Billy Lawlor in 42nd Street also acted in West Side Story.

42nd Street is kind of all about song and dance extravaganza, presentational, very Broadway and very out there,” Arora said. “My character is also very a part of that, and he’s a very presentational guy. In West Side Story, the conflict was just so much more intense. It was gang war, and people were dying and so the stakes were just different and playing a gang leader who’s driven by anger and hatred of another group versus someone who’s driven by fame and lust is just two sides of the point.”

Something that both shows had in common were the countless rehearsal hours spent perfecting the acting, dancing and singing. Guaragna played Maggie Jones, who along with Bert Barry (Sam Richter) played the script and song writer of Pretty Lady, experienced it all during the months leading up to the show’s opening.

Bella Russo
Junior Tosh Arora as Billy Lawlor plays his lead role in “Pretty Lady” as he performs his tap solo atop a six-foot wide dime in the number, “We’re in the Money.”

“West Side Story and 42nd Street are both huge shows to put on, with heavy dancing, elaborate sets and difficult music.” Guaragna said. “42nd Street in particular is a giant spectacle of a show, larger than West Side Story, including insanely huge sets and over 10 production numbers. Both shows are challenging, but 42nd is the biggest production in MacTheatre history. We have been rehearsing 42nd Street since the 19th of November. After school rehearsals are typically two hours with four-hour rehearsals on Fridays. On Saturday, we have longer rehearsals around six to seven hours. Once we get into tech week, we rehearse up to five hours after school, and up to 12 on the weekends.”

The audience is given a glimpse of all the work that goes into a show in 42nd Street. The show mostly focuses on the actors of Pretty Lady but also shows quite a bit of the writers Maggie and Bert, the stage manager, Mac, (Avi Blum) and the accompanying pianist, Oscar (Jonathan Forbes).

“They start the show off with an audition, and they hire people,” Arora said. “It kind of exposes the inner workings of the theatre.”

The audience even gets to see the theatre the company practices in, painted on one of the many backdrops. 42nd Street goes into the private lives of the actors from pre-opening night parties to relationship drama and personal struggles within the leads of Pretty Lady. On the contrary, Mac, the experienced stage manager, knows what he’s doing.

“He’s kind of like a seen it all, kind of bitter been-there-done-that guy,” Blum said. “He’s been around Broadway and the theatre for years, so if anything happens, it doesn’t really surprise him because he’s seen it all.”

Like Mac, 42nd Street’s actual stage manager, senior Zora Moore-Thoms, has a lot of experience in the theatre.

“This is my fifth show stage managing at McCallum so I’ve had a lot of practice,” Moore-Thoms said. “A lot of the time it’s just learning not to take it personally when people get mad at you or yell at you.”

I’ve learned so much, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity, even with the high highs and low lows.

— senior stage manager Zora Moore-Thoms

Even though Moore-Thoms hasn’t had quite as much experience as Mac, she certainly knows what she’s doing. Every set that is put into place and every spotlight that you see has been put there by someone on the tech crew who has practiced for weeks.

“It was such a huge show, with all the things flying in, the stairs, all the costume changes,” Moore-Thoms said. “The directors were drilling us really hard with constant notes so that added a lot of stress.”

The show’s dance numbers alone required a large attention to detail because of the sheer number of cast members and difficulty of the choreography. Guaragna enjoyed the final product of those numbers.

“My favorite song to perform in is probably ‘Go Into Your Dance,’” Guaragna said. “My favorite song in the show to watch is ‘We’re in the Money’ because it is a huge dance number with giant prop dimes and a ton of energy.”

Owen Scales, who played Andy the choreographer, also choreographed the number, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” in which chorus members wear pajamas and dance on a train. He said “watching the number and seeing my friends enjoying their time doing it” was the best part of the experience.

Moore-Thoms also said that the camaraderie of the cast and crew, make the hard work worth it.

“There are so many things that are unique to McCallum shows,” Moore-Thoms said. “Good Show, going to Amy’s Ice Cream the first Friday of the show and going to Central Market after strike on closing night … makes it all come to a nice ending with everyone sitting on the patio eating and talking about how fun (and sometimes super insane) the show was. I’ve learned so much, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity, even with the high highs and low lows.”