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Bonnie Langford

Bonnie Langford interview: 'I feel like 42nd Street is in my blood and in my veins'

Sophie Thomas

Sophie Thomas

October 17, 2019 00:00

After dazzling audiences at Theatre Royal Drury Lane and nominated for three Olivier Awards including best musical revival, 42nd Street was jam-packed with glitz, glamour and oozing with sophistication. Playing its final performance on 5th January, audiences can relive the production as 42nd Street is screened to cinemas nationwide. 

Ahead of the cinema screenings, we spoke to Bonnie Langford who took over the role of Dorothy Brock in the production to ask her how 42nd Street became a slice of West End magic, moments to watch out for and currently starring in 9 to 5.

42nd Street is in cinemas on 10th November.

How would you sum up 42nd Street?

It's the story of the ultimate backstage musical.

It follows an amazing producer who is putting on a show - the biggest show you can imagine! Set in 1933 when everyone's lost money in the Great Depression, the show-within-the-show is the producer's swansong to do what he does best and be a success. Every character is trying to survive in a show packed with backstage drama. The producer doesn't want the leading lady but she comes with a backer who will finance the whole affair. In the middle of it all, a young girl auditions for the show and it's her first Broadway production. 42nd Street is a production that shows the innocence of being in a show as well as the reality of Broadway.

In 42nd Street, you played Dorothy Brock. How did it feel to play an iconic Broadway diva?

It's such an iconic and wonderful show. I played Peggy Sawyer 25 years ago, so to play the older woman was amazing. I felt like the show was in my blood and in my veins anyway. I'm the only actress to have ever played both parts.

With Dorothy, so much of it is for show and trying to survive in a world that wants young people all the time as she proves herself in a competitive world. You could play her as a snide, cold person that's bitter but you need to know why she behaves the way she does - audiences need to empathise with her. Dorothy Brock is the diva with all the money, but she's not just tough and feisty. You learn how the business works and how people are just trying to survive in a big, brash, bold show. 

42nd Street gives tremendous hope and champions triumph over adversity and it's wrapped up in a fantastic concoction of tapping, songs and beautifully done on a grand scale with over 60 cast members. 

I think it was the biggest cast on the West End at the time?

It's one of the biggest West End casts you'll find full stop! They don't have 60 people in a cast very often which made 42nd Street very special. When 42nd Street finished, everyone felt a shock to the system as it was a special show.

What was the filming process for 42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane?

We filmed it live, but they filmed three or four performances of 42nd Street. They put decking over the seats for a few performances so they could get different shots of the same scene. It was an intense, hard-working schedule. 

Speaking of being intense, there's so much impressive choreography in 42nd Street, how long did it take to get up to scratch?

I joined 42nd Street mid-run, so I only had two weeks rehearsal. The full cast had six to eight weeks of rehearsal and they were on the second cast by the time I joined the show. There were constant rehearsals and cleaning up calls and a team kept it drilled. The choreography in 42nd Street is so precise - it was a tight ship.

Are there any standout moments that audiences can look forward to? I loved the "Lullaby of Broadway"!

Yeah, that's a great number! The opening itself is iconic as you hear the orchestra playing the overture and then you see feet tap-dancing in rhythm and the curtain raises. It's a clever moment that goes into a full-on tap routine, and that's just the first five minutes of the show! 'We're In The Money' is another great routine but also the 42nd Street ballet, it's like watching another Hollywood movie.

The incredible American choreographer Randy Skinner created the routines for 42nd Street. What he insisted when he created this production that he wanted to stay true to the 1980s production, but also give something more. They added a whole section in 'Keep Young and Beautiful' with the revolving mirror so the girls created the kaleidoscopic effect too. The incredible finale number over the stairs was also added for the revival - get ready to see a tap routine on stairs! This production of 42nd Street gives you what you expected and then so much more. It kept the musical fresh, alive and exciting.

After 42nd Street, you then joined the cast of 9 to 5. How was it to switch from a glamourous musical theatre role to starring in a comedy role alongside Brian Conley?

It was difficult, that's for sure!

I rehearsed 9 to 5 while starring in 42nd Street.  Changing to 9 to 5 was an adjustment as my part was so different, but 9 to 5 is a crowdpleaser where everybody leaves smiling. We all perform to have variety, versatility and to keep ourselves going. It's great to do something that is so different and slightly mad!

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