DIRECTOR Jason Langley made it his professional mission to never present a production that denigrates any gender or race.
Langley had his work cut out for him when he agreed to guest-direct WAAPA’s big year musical extravaganza 42nd Street at Regal Theatre.
“Usually in the productions I’ve seen of 42nd Street before, there can be an element of misogyny and sexism,” Langley said.
“And certainly reading some of the reviews from the latest London revival, they’ve been a bit called out on it.
“And descriptions of lead character Peggy Sawyer describe her as a naive young girl who becomes a Broadway star but when you read the text, in fact she’s not a naive young girl. She’s a young girl just arrived on Broadway from a small country town with small-country values; that’s the extent of her naivety. She’s actually quite strong.”
Langley, who has guest-directed 12 WAAPA productions including Legally Blonde, said although he had not changed the script, the WAAPA production would not objectify or infantilise the female characters.
“I’d rather not direct something through yesterday’s prejudices and would rather put the contemporary lens on something,” he said.
“It’s not that I’m setting 42nd Street now or doing anything crazy like that, I’m just looking at it from our perspective and challenging the text at every turn.
“I found a way to counter the misogyny and sexism and make the women tougher and more powerful, which also works in well with the time in which it’s set in 1933.
“The 1920s was this huge decade of flux for society and social issues and was the rise of women’s rights and feminism, so it makes sense to me that the women are much more powerful in this.”
Langley said he was enjoying the experience of working on the quintessential famous backstage story about the survival of an industry and the challenges of creating a Broadway show during the Great Depression.
“I guess it was the theme of survival that struck me; the survival of performers in the day-to-day of arts, survival of Broadway and the survival of a nation during a really difficult time,” he said.
“I adore working with the new stars of tomorrow. Some of the people from those first WAAPA shows I worked on here are now respected actors in the industry. I have a fatherly pride when I see them strutting their stuff on the big commercial stages.”
What: WAAPA’s 42nd Street
Where: Regal Theatre, Subiaco
When: June 17 to 24