For director Chris Baldock, his first time seeing 42nd Street was a revelation.
"It was almost like a religious experience without the church - I haven't felt it since."
Other shows may have been deeper or more moving, but none have had quite the same effect on him.
"I've come close for different reasons but not in the same way."
He first saw the show in England three decades ago.
"I lived in London in '86-'87 and attended a production in Drury Lane," he says.
Baldock attended a matinee performance and when it had finished, he says, he went straight out to buy another ticket and went back to see it again the same night.
"It was like nothing I've ever felt before in theatre - the sheer energy and joy that were coming out of the show," he says.
"I'd never had that experience before ...It was so extraordinary."
When Free-Rain Theatre Company's Anne Somes asked him if he wanted to direct her production of the musical, he leapt at the chance, eager to see if he could recreate that initial feeling it produced, not just for himself this time, but for others.
With hundreds of "stunning" costumes sourced from CLOC, a Melbourne theatre company that's done multiple productions of the show - lots of sequins, lots of feathers - and hours of rehearsal putting the cast through their paces with his production team, he says he's excited to get the show in front of an audience.
"It's spectacular, theatrically extraordinary ... and full of pizzazz."
42nd Street is the quintessential Depression-era backstage musical. Would-be dancer Peggy Sawyer (played by Sophie Highmore) arrives too late to audition for the chorus of the new musical Pretty Lady being staged by veteran director Julian Marsh (Jarrad West). He's having his own problems with past-her-prime prima donna Dorothy Brock (Louiza Blomfield) and her wealthy boyfriend Abner Dillon (Michael Miller), whose money is needed to help finance the show.
Peggy attracts some romantic interest from the juvenile lead, Billy Lawlor (Sam Ward) and sympathy from the chorus girls, who invite her to have lunch with them. The girls and Peggy start an impromptu dance together, impressing Julian, who hires the talented newcomer. But there's more trouble ahead as the company rehearses the show in preparation for its opening.
Baldock says 42nd Street had a simple story but still posed challenges, one of which was to give it both heart and a sense of humour while treating the period setting properly.
"My favourite composer of Broadway is Cole Porter - this is my era, the stuff I love, so it's a perfect show for me in that respect. I find the music quite thrilling."
Among his tasks, he says, was to make sure the younger members of the cast understood the Depression-era setting of the show - "$22 a week was a lot of money in 1933" - and that the actors performed with suitable period "innocence" without sending up the material.
When it premiered on Broadway in 1980, 42nd Street was a relatively early example of a recently flourishing sub-genre, the screen to stage adaptation, Baldock says. There had already been some others - Bob Merrill's Carnival! in 1961 was a hit, based on the 1953 film Lili; Lerner and Loewe's Oscar-winning 1958 movie musical Gigi was adapted by the team in 1973 and had a modest run; and Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music, inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, also premiered the same year.
The sub-genre's popularity has only increased in the years since 42nd Street with many films - musical and non-musical, old and new being transferred from cinema to theatre with varying levels of artistic and financial success. Among them are An Officer and a Gentleman, King Kong, Footloose, Newsies, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, The Producers, Ghost, Saturday Night Fever, Strictly Ballroom and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
42nd Street was a hit and a late entry in the nostalgia boom that had seen such old shows as No, No Nanette and Irene successfully revived on Broadway in the 1970s. It won the Tony Award for best musical and ran for nine years in its first Broadway production. The show was based on the 1933 Warner Bros. film adapted from Bradford Ropes's novel and was also a jukebox musical of sorts, since in addition to the songs Harry Warren and Al Dubin wrote for the original movie, it included numbers they wrote for other films of the era including Gold Diggers of 1933 and Dames.
While the names of Warren and Dubin might not be as well known as some of their songwriting peers such as Porter, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, the score includes such standards as You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me, I Only Have Eyes For You and Lullaby of Broadway.
But as well as the songs, there's the dancing - and in 42nd Street that's predominantly tap, with some soft shoe, character dances and even a touch of ballet thrown into the mix. This marks choreographer Michelle Heine's first time tackling 42nd Street but as a tap dancer herself and owner of Legs Dance Studio - where she teaches tap, ballet, jazz and contemporary dance - she's well suited to the material.
"Ten years ago every kid who did dance did tap - now there are not as many. I seem to find tap is the first thing to go," she says.
"It's quite a difficult style of dance - you've got to have all the rhythms."
Most people, she says, have to study it for five years to get up to a really good performance level.
One dancer who's been doing it for much longer than that is Sophie Highmore - "I've had her since the age of two," Heine says. Now 17 and in her final year at McKillop College, for Highmore life is imitating art to some extent: she, like her character, is getting a big break at a young age.
"It's my first lead role," she says.
Not that she lacks performing experience - she's had roles in several musicals at school and for Canberra Philharmonic Society and Free-Rain - but this goes beyond anything she's done before.
"I watched the movie and fell in love with the girl, Peggy Sawyer," she says.
She also loves the varied rhythms and syncopations of tap and has plenty of opportunities to explore them in the show. The long and arduous rehearsal period has been a bit of a challenge at times in the summer heat but, she says, "Everyone's enjoying it."
And while there are plenty of spectacular ensemble dances Highmore says her favourite moment is a relatively intimate number.
"Go Into Your Dance is a little fun one with Peggy and three girls who are pushing Peggy to do her dance and show off her stuff - that's when Julian sees her and realises Peggy can dance."
From March 26-April 25 at The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre