42nd Street, the show where Julian Marsh hires “half a hundred kids” to dance in “the biggest show Broadway’s seen in twenty years." With 46 ensemble members and onstage swings, the production currently playing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is the biggest cast in the 38-year history of the show. With so many tappy feet to look after, the cast take regular ice baths throughout their eight show week. During one of these post-show ice baths, ensemblists Maria Garrett, James-Royden Lyley and Josephina Camble (swing) answered some questions about being in such a large company.
What’s it like being in London’s largest ensemble?
James: It’s amazing, especially off stage! Because you don’t see individual people as often, it feels like there’s always so much to catch up on.
Maria: I think, for morale, it’s quite good. You don’t have to talk to the same people over and over again.
James: You also don’t spend enough time with people for tensions to build up and cause arguments, so it ends up being a really nice working environment.
Josephina: As a swing, it’s overwhelming. I cover twenty-four tracks in the show, but also get thrown on as boys if I am needed.
Do you feel like the ensemble play a big role in the show itself?
Maria: I think this show is probably the most celebrated ensemble show there is, that I’ve ever done, so it’s quite special to be a part of.
Josephina: I think it’s nice because the numbers involve the whole ensemble. There’s only a few numbers that only use “the good ones”, it’s pretty much full ensemble all the time.
James: Also, the entire plot speaks of how hard working and capable the ensemble are. Peggy says a brilliant line, referring to the “specks of dust” in the chorus; “Put all those specks together and you have something alive and beautiful that can reach out to thousands of people we’ve never seen before”.
Maria: We also get the final say, because we perform the last three minutes of the show!
What’s the best thing about working with such a large group?
Josephina: The mix of personalities and the nature of our job means you never see the same faces every day, if people are on holiday or off the show. And I swing in to different slots every day so I get to talk to and dance with different people every day, which is great!
Maria: It’s being re-inspired by people every day too, because, doing the same show eight shows a week can be draining and it’s good to get inspiration and support from the people you’re around. Everyone has different strengths so it’s good to touch on different people every day to draw on that strength.
James: Also it’s nice for outside of the show itself, socially and for personal development. It’s easy to feel like you plateau doing a year in the show but seeing how different people are utilizing their time is incredible and inspiring to keep you moving forward.
And the worst?
Josephina: It’s hard to keep up with everybody’s plans! I feel like I’m the last person to know anything; drinks somewhere or birthdays. There are so many people to keep up to date with!
Maria: The boys hog the showers…
James: It’s true, we do.
Lastly, do you have any tactics to help you stand out from the crowd?
Maria: That’s such a hard question!
Josephina: Personally, when I’m on for an ensemble track I like to blend in as much as possible! As a swing, if I’m standing out it’ll be for the wrong reasons!
Maria: I guess maybe, just touch upon your strengths, different people will shine in different ways. So, even if you can’t kick your leg the highest, tits and teeth are always great!
James: I also think, on a show like this, the object is to perform as a unit. The routines rely on tight formations and synchronized choreography.
Maria: It’s about teamwork. We all have to make an identical pattern to be seen in the mirror by the audience. It’s then less about sticking out and more about being a team to give the audience the full impact of the choreography.
Josephina: The show is a team we are all in it together. You can’t think of it as a one-man-show, apart from if you’re playing Peggy Sawyer, of course, because it’s basically a one-woman-show for her!
James: It works better when we are together…
Maria: Like ants!