Bright costumes, tuneful songs and tapping feet were all on show when Free-Rain Theatre Company provided a taste of its upcoming production of the 1980 Broadway musical 42nd Street on Thursday.
Directed by Chris Baldock, 42nd Street tells the story of the mounting of a Broadway musical during the Great Depression during which Peggy Sawyer, a young chorus girl, gets a shot at stardom when the leading lady breaks her ankle.
Playing Peggy, in her first lead role, is 17-year-old Sophie Highmore. But nobody had to break their ankle for her to get the part.
"This has been so cool - everyone has been really hard-working," she said.
"Everything is really coming together."
Professional actor Sam Ward, last seen in Canberra in Free-Rain's Les Miserables as Marius in 2017, plays the show's juvenile lead, Billy Lawlor. He was in the chorus of a production of 42nd Street during his studies at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Ward said of Billy, "He's an active pursuer of Peggy in romantic situations but it doesn't seem to be reciprocated - she's always very friendly but she just seems to want to be friends."
Whether or not he will break through her reserve remains to be seen.
Ward studied tap dancing while at the Victorian College of the Arts but his recent roles - Marius, Judas in a Melbourne production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Whizzer in Falsettos - haven't called for tap and he said he was enjoying the chance to get back into it.
Conductor Ian McLean said there were no strings in the 15-piece orchestra which based its big, brassy sound on the emerging big bands of the 1930s.
The story was adapted from the 1933 Warner Bros film and the score filledout the movie's Harry Warren-Al Dubin score with some of the duo's other songs.
"It's bright, breezy, uplifting music," McLean said.
He said the songs and production numbers - including Lullaby of Broadway, We're in the Money and Dames - were originally intended to cheer people up during the depths of the Depression and continued to serve that function on stage, whatever the era.
"From my point of view I've got to be strict with tempo - the tappers are very dependent on the tempo being exactly the same once we've started or everyone can get out of sync."
But when everything goes right there will be more than two dozen people tapping out on stage together and tunes the audience will go out humming, he said.
- 42nd Street has previews on March 26 and 27 at 8pm, then the season runs from March 28 to April 15 at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Full details and tickets: theq.net.au.