It’s one of the quirkiest, catchiest rhymes ever penned for a show tune: “Naughty, gaudy, bawdy, sporty 42nd Street.” And it’s the centerpiece of a musical story that has been beloved across decades, even generations.
Bradford Ropes’ novel originally became one of the movies’ first hit musicals, telling the story of a young girl named Peggy who arrives in Depression-era New York with dreams of singing and dancing on Broadway. Her only luck initially appears to be bad luck, however, until a freak accident gives her a shot at the big time.
While the underdog story’s always a winner, there’s little question that 42nd Street’s enduring appeal—the quality that earned it Tony Awards both during its initial 1980 run and for a 2001 revival—comes from its songs. Lyricist Al Dubin and composer Harry Warren contributed some of the 1930s’ most memorable hits, and they’re all here: “We’re In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and, of course, that title song.