‘42nd Street’ gives dancers the chance to strut their stuff

Updated: 07/24/08 6:41 AM

Niagara Fine Arts summer production of “42nd Street” will feature, from left, Sean Murphy of Cheektowaga; Robby Syruws of Niagara Falls, Susan Laxton of Niagara Falls, Mike Zito of Lewiston and Brian Myers of Lewiston.

NIAGARA FALLS — The acting and singing should be fine in the Niagara Fine Arts Program’s production of “42nd Street,” but the show is really all about dancing.

In fact, said Gracie Schupp, production choreographer, “Most of these kids eat, drink and sleep dance.”

The musical, set in the 1930s, features a cast of very young dancers that range in age from early teens to early 20s who turn in performances with the zeal of young professionals waiting for that big break.

Most of them are from area high schools and colleges, most notably Niagara Falls High School and Niagara University.

It features Susan Laxton, who graduated in May from Niagara University’s drama program and who apparently can tap with the best. She plays small town girl Peggy Sawyer who, with little hope, comes to New York City to make her way to the Broadway stage and by mere circumstance becomes a star, supplanting the unbearable and aging diva Dorothy Brock.

Brock is played with great gusto by Joanna Farrell, a senior in Niagara’s drama program.

The musical also features Giovanna Andolina, 18, a lead dancer who just graduated from Grand Island High School.

“She was accepted at Ohio State University’s dance program, which is really tough to get into. She’s really going to do well there,” said Schupp.

And there are many youngsters who hold their own even though they are new to musical theater and are working with some very talented and experienced dancers.

Erin Schul, a 13-year-old ninth-grader heading into North Tonawanda High School, said, “I’ve never done anything like this.” Yet she never missed a step at a recent rehearsal.

“I like tap dancing,” Erin said.

“I’ve been doing it since I was little.” Erin is not the only new face.

Destinee Joseph, 14, a LaSalle Preparatory grad heading into ninth grade at Niagara Falls High School, said, “This is my first musical. But I’ve studied dance for six years and I’ve been able to learn the dance steps bit by bit. You pick it up. I mean we’ve been working on it since late June. . . . We’ve been coming here every night for three or four hours.”

Schupp said the level of talent has enabled her to choreograph the play “as close to the real 42nd Street production as I could.”

The musical, which starts at 7:30 p. m. on Friday and Saturday and the same time Aug. 1 and 2, is being performed in the Niagara Falls High School Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $15 per adult and $13 for seniors and children under 12. For information, call 579-5121 or go to the Web site www.niagarafinearts.org .