Sam Lips plays Billy Lawlor in the new production of 42nd Street, which has transferred to London’s Sadler’s Wells following a run at Curve, Leicester.
The show stars Ruthie Henshall as Dorothy Brock, Adam Garcia as Julian Marsh, Josefina Gabrielle as Maggie Jones Les Dennis as Bert Barry, Nicole-Lily Baisden as Peggy Sawyer, Sam Lips as Billy Lawlor and Michael Praed as Pat Denning.
This iconic song-and-dance spectacular features a hit parade of toe-tapping songs, including the title number, “We’re In The Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “I Only Have Eyes For You”. 42nd Street is a timeless and inspiring showbiz fairy tale that combines breath-taking tap dance routines, backstage intrigue, classic romance and delightful comedy to dazzling effect.
Fresh off the bus from small-town America, young and beautiful Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City dreaming of her name in lights. She quickly catches the eye of a big-time director and lands a spot in the chorus line of Broadway’s newest show…and when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets her shot at stardom.
Following its London run, 42nd Street will embark on tour. Current tour schedule can be found at 42ndstreettour.com
You’re starring in 42nd Street, what can you tell us about this musical?
42nd Street is a fun, lighthearted show full of tap dancing and spectacle, but also has a lot of heart. The story takes place in New York City in 1933, right in the heart of the Great Depression, and the famous Broadway director, Julian Marsh, decides to put on a musical. We meet young Peggy Sawyer, a young small-town girl with a big dream, and follow her on a remarkable journey to Broadway stardom.
It features well known songs such as “Lullaby of Broadway” and “I Only Have Eyes For You”, and of course, the tap-dancing showstopper “We’re in the Money”. It’s a great show for all ages and guaranteed to lift your spirits.
How does it feel to be taking this show, so synonymous with Broadway, on tour across the UK?
I love telling this story because it gives the audience a glimpse into our world as stage performers. A lot of people don’t really know the magnitude of the work that goes on behind the scenes. Not just during the performance, but in the rehearsals leading up to it, navigating the financial obstacles of putting the show on, especially during a global crisis such as the Great Depression, and of course, handling the unexpected hurdles along the way.
We’ve all heard the phrase “the show must go on,” and I think audiences will have a new appreciation for that phrase after seeing this show. My biggest hope for the tour is that it will inspire young people who love theatre to work hard to become the best performer they can be. Peggy’s story could be theirs one day.
You’re playing Billy Lawler, tell us a little more about the character, and what you’re enjoying most about the role?
Billy Lawlor is such a fun role to play. He is the leading man in the show within the show and becomes a potential love interest for Peggy. It has been a dream role of mine for a long time and I am so thrilled that I’m getting to do it. It has a bit of everything. I get to sing some great songs, dance some amazing steps, and play out a little love story. It’s a lot of fun.
And what do you think the biggest challenge for you as an actor will be?
I think the biggest challenge of this show for me is the stamina it takes to make it happen every night. We do eight performances a week with one day off, and in a show like this with all of its physical demands, we have to think of ourselves as athletes.
It’s not just the work on stage that we have to think about, but also what happens backstage. There are a lot of very fast costumes changes going on, in amongst giant set pieces moving about, with a surprisingly small amount of room. Not to mention the stairs we have to climb to get to dressing rooms and such. So it is an incredibly physically demanding show, and to make it look fresh and effortless every night is a real challenge.
What’s it like working with director, Jonathan Church and what’s been your biggest learning from the experience?
Jonathan is a brilliant director. This is the second show I have done with him, the first being Singin’ in the Rain last year. He has a real understanding of this art form and how to really highlight the true heart of the story, making each scene flow seamlessly into the next.
We really dove into the text with this production and it was wonderful taking the time to explore all of the different relationships the characters have with each other. I think the biggest thing I have learned from this process is to always continue to discover new things about my character. Jonathan is a very collaborative director and was open to all of the ideas we brought into the rehearsal room.
Of course, some ideas didn’t work, but that encouragement to keep playing with the characters was so valuable. It has kept the show fresh and fun for all of us, and makes it more real for the audience.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see 42nd Street?
If you’re thinking about buying a ticket to the show, I would say you’re in for an evening of pure entertainment. These classic musicals have stood the test of time for a reason. It is the quintessential Broadway musical, and you will leave the theatre with a spring in your step.