Pioneer rolls out 42nd Street, cheers roll back in

Chloe Biggs as Peggy Sawyer
It is the simple story of chasing your dreams, taking the stage, and standing in the spotlight while hundreds of people sit fixated on your every move. It is about the diva falling, the chorus girl coming up, and the passion of the performer, all set on the biggest stage there is… Broadway. These are not nuanced characters, nor is the plot an acrobatic journey of subtext. But the beauty of 42nd Street is that it doesn’t need to be.

Pioneer High School’s production of the Stewart and Bramble piece is an energy-packed example of how to do a spectacle-musical. The pace is blistering, clocking in at under two hours with an intermission. But the show doesn’t whiz by without leaving a definite impression of the kind talent walking the halls at Pioneer.

From the very first downbeat, the energy of the show comes straight ahead thanks to the deft feet of Andi Lee (Amy Lingard) who leads a large ensemble in the trademark triple time steps which have become the de facto calling card of the show. Coming right on her heels was the powerful voice of Maggie Jones (Megan Lombardi), the quirky and fun Lorraine Flemming (Alisabeth Bacon) and the swaggering but endearingly sweet Billy Lawlor (Jackson Steinberg). The show really gets rolling with the arrival of Chloe Biggs, playing leading lady and chorus-line darling Peggy Sawyer. Biggs is a textbook triple-threat who wastes no time working both the audience and dramatic counterpart Julian Marsh (Jordan Sangalang) with her piercing gaze, formidable tap chops, and powerful vocals.

The first act flies by with familiar musical theatre standards like “We’re In The Money”, and a wonderfully poignant rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You” by Dorothy Brock (Carissa McElravy). Act two charges ahead in similar fashion with Sangalang finally getting a chance to show off his impressive pipes in the classic “Lullaby Of Broadway”. But what sets this show apart is the strength of its sizable chorus. “Big, bigger, biggest” may be the producer’s mantra, but director Steve Dini took the “big” and made it unified and effective thanks to choreography by Susan Dini and Dena Zlotziver as well as impressive costuming by Bonnie Roberts.

The most impressive part of the show is what made it famous in the first place: the tapping. Many high school directors fear doing shows like Thoroughly Modern Millie and No, No, Nanette simply because it is hard to find 20-30 skilled tappers in one school. But for this production, the students actually met on Monday nights during the fall semester for special tap classes just so they could be ready for the show. The final effect is striking with nearly fifty students tapping in unison. No fake steps, no fake tap shoes. It is all real, and fun to behold.

This production is a shining example of a school community coming together to put on the kind of show you walk away humming (or singing full-voice in the car on the way home). It makes you feel good like a musical ought to, and it is the perfect antidote to a night of DVR malaise or bad-weather boredom. Go and meet those dancing feet before it’s too late.

42nd Street at Pioneer High School – 1290 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose.
March 18, 19 (Fri, Sat) at 7pm
March 23-26 (Wed-Sat) at 7pm
Tickets: $15 General Admission, $7 Students/Seniors
Tickets are available at Pioneerhigh.org or at the door.
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