The Ocean State Theatre Company (OSTC) is performing the famous novel, movie and 1980 Broadway musical, 42nd Street to celebrate the completion of its first full-season since the organization moved into its new Warwick location in 2012.
This ageless classic tells the story of an aspiring young chorus girl who has to save the show after the lead breaks her ankle. It celebrates the perseverance and passion of Broadway performers in a dazzling tap spectacle. 42nd Street was the winner of the 1980 Tony Award for “Best Musical” and it won again in 2001 for the “Best Revival Musical.”
“It is very timeless because it’s about an underdog. It’s a story about hard work and determination really paying off in the end. It’s an empowering story,” says Aimee Turner, the co-founder of OSTC. She is also director and choreographer of the show. Aimee is very excited about putting on this uplifting musical after running The Diary of Anne Frank. Although she is proud of the production, which received waves of positive feedback for the powerful emotions that the cast invoked, it is time to lighten up the stage. This is an example of the “90-degree angle turns” that Aimee strives to make in her show selections.
But 42nd Street holds a particularly special place in Aimee’s heart. Theatre had always been a substantial part of her life; she dreamt of dancing on Broadway’s stage when she was only 13. Aimee has been a professional actor since high school and her dream of making it to Broadway became a reality by her early 20s, when she made her debut as a cast member for none other than 42nd Street. She performed the musical in the U.S. and she toured in Europe for nine months. This was the first of six Broadway productions that Aimee performed in before she took up directing, producing and choreography. “This is where my heart started. I love musicals and I think there is a big audience for it,” she says. OSTC is known for putting on largescale musicals year-round. They have announced two more for this summer, Guys & Dolls and Always…Patsy Cline.
Aimee explains that aside from her personal relationship with the show, she believes that 42nd Street will strike a chord with nearly everyone. She expects the whole audience to be rooting for little Peggy Sawyer by the end of Act II. The musical does not touch upon controversial themes or use foul language, making it appropriate for families, and the uplifting theme of triumph makes this a great nightcap to a night out. It is also hard for anyone to leave without a smile after watching the exhilarating dance ensembles performed by 23 professional dancers, singers and actors. “There is something electric about watching a lot of people tap dancing at once, it is so unique,” she says. “There is nothing that compares to that excitement.”
The thrill of live performance that Aimee describes is becoming a novelty in our technology-engrossed lives where we can stream a video on several different devices within our home and we are constantly listening for that shrill tone to notify us of a new post, tweet or “Like.” “I think that live theatre is more important than ever because our life has turned into text messaging and emailing,” she says. “We communicate through words so much that I think listening is more important than ever, and you must listen in the theatre.”
Another unique aspect of the OSTC cast that sets them apart from other professional theatre organizations in the state is the medley of backgrounds that come to the stage. There is no set guild or company. Open auditions are held every year where anyone can come regardless of their experience. “That’s the fun part about having a [professional] theatre in your backyard, you never know who you are going to meet for the first time,” Aimee says. OSTC deliberately tries to integrate a diverse group of performers, casting each show to its best benefit, “regardless of where those folks come from.” This past year, three of their regular performers joined the union and moved to New York City, OSTC also hired several Rhode Island natives from the Big Apple. This is a common tradeoff seen at the OSTC.
“It’s great that we can help people moving up the ladder, providing a place to become better,” Aimee says, “And also [for] people who are already successful, a place where they can ‘come home’ and still work professionally.”
This month, enjoy the theatrical prowess of well-seasoned drama veterans or witness young actors making their big break in the smallest state. The inspiring story of 42nd Street is sure to leave the whole family smiling and the transfixing dance numbers may even rouse some to take up tap lessons.
Show runs May 1-18, 2pm & 7:30pm. Tickets cost $34-$54. 1245 Jefferson Blvd Warwick. 921-6800.