'On Your Toes'

Music, Lyrics, and Book: Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and George Abbott; Choreography:  Adam Cooper

by RAK

August 4, 2003 -- Royal Festival Hall, London

It’s New York in the 1930’s and the Russian Ballet has arrived to spice up the quiet life of Professor Dolan and his music students.

Adam Cooper has taken Rogers and Hart’s classic 1936 musical and re-choreographed, re-vamped and revitalized it. The witty lyrics and beautiful melodies are brought zing up-to-date with some terrific tap routines, classical ballet and jazz dancing.

The unlikely plot must be accepted at face value: a third generation vaudeville hoofer, Junior Dolan (Adam Cooper), is sent to college by his showbiz parents to prevent him from going off the rails and succumbing to his ‘lower nature’! He becomes a professor of music, teaching a talented group of students which includes Frankie Frayn (Anna-Jane Casey), who idolises him, and Sidney Cohn (Simon Coulthard), a budding young composer.

Whilst nurturing Frankie’s creativity with some after-class tutoring, Junior starts to fall in love with her. She has witnessed the Professor tap-dancing in an unguarded moment of nostalgia for his dancing days…his tap shoes are a constant memento in his briefcase!

They dream of escaping together to “A Small Hotel” where they can be together in peace. Her plans are of matrimony and quiet bliss, but …

Then things start to get complicated with the arrival of the Russian stars. The sultry prima ballerina Vera Baranova (Sarah Wildor) is looking to pay back her straying boyfriend Konstantine Morrosine ( Irek Mukhamedov), and make him jealous. Junior is visiting the Ballet to promote Sidney’s new jazz-ballet music. One dance with the eastern temptress and he is hooked! Sarah Wildor, ex-principal with the Royal Ballet, had shone as an actor/dancer in the recent run of ‘Contact’. Tonight she gets into her role as the manipulative, temperamental diva with a wonderful ‘rrrusssiann’ accent and excellent comic timing. She seduces Junior on her softly cushioned bed. As he leaps onto the divan the scene closes …

The funniest moments come during the “Princess Zenobia” ballet. Any Kirov fans that have seen “Scherherazade” and “La Bayadere” recently will recognize the source of the plot and the dead furry Tiger on a stick too! Junior is persuaded to join the corps de ballet as a slave to replace an absent dancer. But despite his dancing roots and enthusiasm, he is ill-prepared, under-rehearsed and unfamiliar with the make-up requirements! Watching the glorious Cooper dancing “badly” and creating havoc big-time is a revelation and a treat! And boy, can he swing from a rope! I almost expected a Tarzan-like ‘Aah-ooh-aah’ with chest-beating! It is such fun to see the chaos he causes!

Irek Mukhamedov as ‘the Beggar’ shows us that he can still light up the stage with his Bolshoi-trained leaps and pirouettes. He is a talented actor too, though the accent comes naturally!

The second half opens with Junior pondering his love-triangle predicament with the help of Peggy Porterfield (Kathryn Evans), who is the manager of the Russian Ballet.   Her pearls of wisdom are conveyed through the song “The heart is quicker than the eye,” which includes a delicious tango. Junior is none the wiser but appreciates her advice.   The Russian Ballet maestro Sergei Alexandrovitch (Russell Dixon) is blackmailed by Peggy into producing Sidney’s new work ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’

The dancers come to meet the music students at the college, and they all dance together in the superb “On Your Toes” routine. Adam has introduced some new choreography into this number so that now Junior and Frankie have a tap-dancing duet before the swirling circles of ballet girls on pointe, leaping male dancers, and tappers in ‘Fred and Ginger’ outfits bowl you over with their exciting and complimentary dancing.

Sergei and Peggy meet outside the stage door for a breather before going in to watch the premiere of ‘Slaughter’. Here we have Kathryn Evans at her very best; she stole the show with her whisky-scented, slurred and outrageously funny version of “You Took Advantage Of Me,”   following Sergei’s long-awaited kiss. She twirls her tassels like a burlesque queen and gives it all she’s got.

‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’ is the grand finale of the show.   It is set in a sleazy dive where a sensational stripper pays over her earnings to a gun-toting, trigger–happy pimp, the Big Boss (Greg Pichery).   Junior is given the lead role of the Hoofer, opposite Vera’s sexy, corsetted Striptease Girl.   Morrosine has been ousted from taking part in the performance following a fight with Junior.   Motivated by jealousy and a desire for revenge, he takes out a contract on Junior with some low-life gangsters. The assassin is instructed to shoot his victim during the show, but Frankie overhears the plot and manages to send a warning note to Junior during the closing number.

The Hoofer, dressed all in black and looking devastatingly handsome, falls for the Stripper and wins her attention. The dancing between Adam and Sarah is electric; they have a chemistry which is riveting. Think magnesium flares and fireworks…..that’s it!   Adam uses those famous, sexy, well-toned arms to perfection as he whirls around with Sarah. They are a wonderful couple to watch!   Let’s hope we see more.

Frankie’s warning is delivered just in time and the assassination is foiled by Junior’s quick thinking. The orchestra are made to play the final routine again and again until the police arrive to arrest Morrosine and his cronies. Junior dances on and on, exhausted and dripping with sweat,but safe. And here the show ends.

Adam shows us his multiple talents as he sings well in a pleasant baritone, acts with conviction AND dances tap and jazz with flair! All this and he looks sensational too!   Director Paul Kerryson and his team from the Leicester Haymarket; musical director Julian Kelly and designer Paul Farnsworth, have transferred the show successfully to the larger stage of the Royal Festival Hall.

This musical runs until 6th Sept and is a sure-fire HIT!!

Edited by Jeff

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