• 42nd Street

    Issues, Resources & Lesson Plans


    The Cast go Goodspeeds 42nd Street
    Goodspeed Musicals, 2009 Photo by Diane Sobolewski

    OBJECTIVE: Students will explore examples of songs about New York City from musicals--and also from popular culture--to compare and contrast different views of the city and formulate ideas about why NYC is, in many ways, a center of popular culture.



    What is it about New York City and Broadway? Bright lights, big city and a lucky shot at fame...this is the stuff of dreams and the fodder for many a play, musical, movie and TV show. Two of 42nd Street’s musical numbers specifically address the magic of Broadway, but the show is just one of many musicals that celebrate the appeal.



    Broadway Box logo


    Ask students to listen to a few of the following tributes to NYC and Broadway on this Broadway Box playlist from the various musicals throughout the last century:

    • “NYC” from Annie
    • “New York, New York” from On the Town
    • “Give My Regards to Broadway” from Little Johnny Jones and George M
    • “La Vie Boheme” from Rent
    • “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello Dolly!
    • “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton
    • “King of New York” from Newsies
    • “Opening Doors” from Merrily We Roll Along


    After listening to a few selections, divide the class into small groups of five or six students. Ask each group to compile a list of common images or themes found in the various songs.



    After listening to the selected playlist from the musical theater genre, have the class listen to a few pop songs that capture the essence or celebrate NYC.


    “Empire State of Mind” (Jay-Z with Alicia Keys)

    “New York State of Mind” (Billy Joel)

    “New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down” (LCD Soundsystem)

    “Theme from New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra)

    “Autumn in New York” (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong)

    “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys)

    “Rhapsody in Blue” (Leonard Bernstein with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra)

    “New York, New York” (Ryan Adams)

    “Take the A’ Train” (Duke Ellington Orchestra)

    “On Broadway” (George Benson)

    “Chelsea Morning” (Joni Mitchell)

    “Jenny from the Block” (Jennifer Lopez)

    “Spanish Harlem” (Aretha Franklin)

    “Up On The Roof” (The Drifters)

    “Saturday in the Park” (Chicago)


    Again, after listening to a few songs, have students in their groups write down the images and themes found in those songs. What – if any – are the similarities or differences between the musical theater references and other pop songs? What song struck the strongest chord? What images created the greatest impact? What do the songs suggest about the energy and essence of the city?



    Whether set in in the music industry (think of the recent revamping of A STAR IS BORN starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) or the sports arena (Remember the Titans, Blind Side, Rudy etc), everybody loves a great rags to riches, underdog story.  Certainly, in 42nd Street the goal of Julian Marsh and the creative team of “Pretty Lady” is to make it on the “Great White Way,” named for the bright lights in the theater district.


    How does a place – a city, a restaurant, park – get romanticized? Do you have a city or special spot that takes on deeper meaning because it is tied to a dream or an experience? What is that place for you? Take a moment to describe that spot in lyrical or poetic terms. How does the song “Lullaby of Broadway” compare to the closing number, “42nd Street”? What experiences does each song seem to highlight? How are they connected? Have you ever been to New York City, or Times Square or Broadway? Describe that experience? If Broadway is the apex for theater lovers, what are comparable experiences for those who are passionate about sports, or music or food? What are your dream spots? What experiences and locales are on your bucket list? What is the draw?



    • When I think of New York, I imagine …
    • For me, musicals are …
    • Cleveland is …
    • The thought of singing and dancing in front of an audience makes me feel ….



    In the play, Julian Marsh sings “The Lullaby of Broadway” to convince Peggy to stay with the show and step into Dorothy’s role. It is a number that captures the wonder and joy of being a performer in a Broadway musical. The song amplifies Peggy’s dream and passion and ultimately influences her choice to put back on her dancing shoes.


    In their small groups, have students brainstorm, list and describe the things that they love best about either the city of Cleveland or their school. How do they capture the essence and energy of a place that impacts them? Ask them to think of the places, experiences, local spots, and qualities that define the selected place. Think about sports teams, favorite hand out spots, teachers, local celebrities, historical moments, current struggles or successes, etc. Working as a group, ask students to collectively write an ode or the lyrics to a song (they can create a rap or select a familiar tune (Happy Birthday, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, America the Beautiful) as a guide to Cleveland. After a designated time – say 20 minutes – have each group share their creations. Discuss the results.


Issues, Resources & Lesson Plans