A trip down memory lane: 42nd Street

  • April 16, 2020
  • Theatre in Paris exclusives
  • Aysha Ferullo

42nd Street has stolen the hearts of many since its original Broadway release in 1980. This Harry Warren musical combines scintillating tap-dance numbers with show-stopping harmonies to produce one of musical theatre’s most gripping spectacles. It even captured eight Tony Awards (including best musical!). This backstage musical (a genre of musical dedicated to shows set in the theatre itself) contains many diegetic numbers – musical interludes occurring for the purpose of music itself, as opposed to aiding the progression of the plot, making it positively bursting with showtunes. This year, 42nd Street graces the Parisian stage once more, spreading the joy 40 years after its initial release. 


42nd Street, originally a 1932 novel by Bradford Ropes, was quickly adapted for the big screen a year after its release, with Rian James, James Seymour and Whitney Bolton writing its screenplay. The 1933 film, starring Warner Baxter and Bebe Daniels is considered a classic in the world of film today and was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s no surprise it was adapted for the stage in 1980, welcomed by an impressive nine-year run on Broadway. 


42nd Street tells the tale of Julian Marsh’s journey in putting on a musical at the height of the Great Depression. Peggy Sawyer, a motivated young performer wearing her heart on her sleeve, arrives at Broadway, with the hope of making it as a performer. Julian is taken with Peggy’s talent, giving her a role in the chorus of Pretty Lady. However, when disaster strikes and Dorothy Brock, the show’s leading lady, is injured, Peggy must somehow fill her shoes, finally granting her her big break!

A Jukebox Musical

42nd Street is perceived by many as a Jukebox Musical, indicating that many of its numbers are pop songs, already well known to the public, as opposed to original music. Examples of other Jukebox musicals that we all know and love are An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain and Mamma Mia. In the case of 42ndStreet, while many of the songs were taken directly from the original motion picture, it includes other popular songs that Al Dubin and Harry Warren wrote for different films at the time, such as Go Into Your Dance and The Singing Marine. In a 2017 revival of the show, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, written for Moulin Rouge, was also added to the show. 


42nd Street has certainly had its share of iconic milestones, starting with its original Broadway release in 1980. It wowed the audiences of the Winter Garden Theatre, the Majestic and St. James’, occupying the heart of Broadway for a total of 9 years – an impressive run comprised of over 3,400 performances. Broadway picked the show back up again in a 2001 revival that ran for a further 1,524 performances (and a further Tony Award for Best Revival)!

Meanwhile, the West End housed the musical in 1984, where 42nd Street opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Fun fact: Catherine Zeta-Jones, a member of the chorus at the time, was asked to go onstage as Peggy after the original actress and her understudy fell ill – Zeta Jones fit the role so well that she was welcomed into the permanent cast following this performance! In 2017, 42nd Street was revived on the West End, once more at the Theatre Royal, and ran for almost two years. 42nd Street certainly stole the hearts of the British public, taking home the Olivier Award for Best Musical!

42nd Street in Paris

Fans of 42nd Street aren’t limited to Broadway and the West End – the Parisian stage is also fond of the spectacle. First taking to the stage of the Théâtre du Chatelet in 2017, 42nd Street returns to the French capital later this year. Don’t miss your chance to see this all-time classic, on the very stage it first graced. Book your tickets now through the Theatre in Paris box office!

Book tickets to see 42nd Street in Paris!