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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at New York City Center


  Ph: Joan Marcus

How very lovely to have Rodgers and Hart back on the boards, even if is for a long weekend. In 1936 it was somewhat of a daring innovation when composer Richard Rodgers incorporated the art of ballet into musical comedy theater. The end result was On Your Toes, and it ran for 315 performances. The book, which the team co-wrote with the great George Abbott, follows the journey of a young vaudeville hoofer, Junior Dolan (Shonn Wiley), who vacates the act he shared with his parents to become a teacher. Still infatuated with dance he makes a rather clumsy attempt to perform in a Russian style ballet (a rather outrageous spoof of Scheherazade).

The second act ballet is "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," and it is quite likely the most well-known ballet to emerge from Broadway musical theater, paving the way for Agnes DeMille and Jerome Robbins, who realized the technique so masterfully in such groundbreakers as Brigadoon and West Side Story. The murderous "Slaughter" is brilliantly performed here by Wiley and Irina Dvorovenko of the American Ballet Theater. Trained at the Kirov Ballet School, she is an exquisite beauty and a dancer of enormous grace. She is tempestuous, droll and sly, and her legs seem to go on forever.

Let us not forget Lorenz Hart. The tuner has some of his most witty and heart-rendering lyrics. Kelli Barrett as the ingénue joins Wiley in a sweet duet of "There's a Small Hotel" and "It's Got to Be Love." Kelli solos on one of Hart's most poignant confessionals, "Glad to Be Unhappy." Christine Baranski adds a classy touch as a wealthy benefactor lending Broadway savvy to "The Heart Is Quicker than the Eye" and "Too Good for the Average Man." The always-engaging Karen Ziemba has an all too brief turn with Randy Skinner in "Two-a-Day for Keith."

The Encores! Orchestra crisply, conducted by Rob Fisher, is, as always, superb, and Warren Carlyle has staged and choreographed the show with great zest and allure. Vaudeville, musical comedy and ballet have come full circle with On Your Toes, and considering the fare of late on the Great White Way, it's a most welcome visitation.


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