College theater productions usually have a weak spot or two in the casting, a player who can’t hold his own vocally or just doesn’t look the part, but the recent run of “42nd Street,” by the University of Michigan Department of Musical Theater, lacked any hint of weakness. The bunch we saw on Saturday night at the Power Center gave a strong and spirited performance that made us feel privileged to live in Ann Arbor.
Mary Michael Patterson, of Aledo, Texas, starred as Peggy Sawyer, the underdog who defies million-to-one odds and becomes a Broadway star in “Pretty Lady.” When Julian Marsh (Max Spitulnik, Rockville, Maryland) gives Peggy a pep talk before the show premiers, he refers to her “golden talent,” and it also seemed true of Patterson, whose wondrous dancing and singing did indeed suggest a rare gift refined by untold hours in practice studios. (I couldn’t help thinking how proud her parents must have been to see her perform, if they did, and the same for all those parents who got to see their kids on stage in this glittering production.)
Marken Greenwood (Palos Verdes, California) gave a fine turn as Dorothy Brock, the fading star whose sugar daddy Abner Dillon (hilariously portrayed by Brant Cox, Kirkland, Illinois) is backing “Pretty Lady.” But it’s Beth Kuhn (Deerfield, Illinois) who was truly commanding as Maggie Jones, one of the co-writers. Her scenes were delicious, and one wishes this member of the senior class great luck in her newest pursuits.
“42nd Street” is such a wonderfully uplifting show, and two hours weren’t enough. If the company toured the state with it, I’d have to tail along and see them again and again.