You expect a fine sense of balance from a musical, what with all that dancing, but the equilibrium in 42nd Street is more delicately poised than most. Originally a film made in Depression-era US, the show's schmaltzy storyline of the chorus girl who becomes a leading lady, picking up a leading man on the way, serves up candyfloss against the backdrop of the breadline. Paul Kerryson's taut, tense and tender production oscillates perfectly between the two poles. The great "We're in the Money" transition from street urchins fishing a dime from a gutter to a dancing chorus swishing on to the stage with headdresses of golden coins glittering on their heads is breathtakingly finessed (Andrew Wright's choreography). Andy Rumble's band is blasting. Ashley Martin-Davis's pared-down set is starkly effective, with sharp use of projections to suggest the world beyond the backstage rehearsal area. Daisy Maywood is thoroughly engaging as the newly risen star, whose performance saves the show – and the fortunes of the entire company. (On the sidelines, Karen Sly's signing added delight.) Here, hope and hunger make a killer team.
Clare Brennan reviews theatre throughout the UK for The Observer @clarembrennan