'On Your Toes'
Music, Lyrics, and
Book: Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and George Abbott; Choreography:
August 5, 2003 --
Royal Festival Hall, London
I was looking forward to seeing
this production for two main reasons. Firstly to see how ballet stars
cope with the different demands of musical theatre and secondly it always
interests me to see theatrical productions at the Royal Festival Hall
as for most of the year the venue only has to cope with the demands of
a concert hall setting. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the
quality of both.
As Rak says you have to put the incredulity of the storyline aside and
take this musical at face value [editor's note - for RAK's review, click
here]. There are a few of the weaker
songs that could be cut and this may be a blessing in a production that
runs at over 3 hours in length. However the better quality numbers such
as “There’s A Small Hotel” and “On Your Toes” are delivered with such
panache and flair that this makes up for some weaker moments.
Adam Cooper as Junior gives an assured performance. He effortlessly tapped
his way through the show combining the grace of Astaire and the athelticism
of Kelly to great effect. Taking a leading role and choreographing such
a dance laden show must have been a tremendous challenge, but he brings
to the choreography a real sense of feeling for the piece, particularly
in his duets with Anna Jane Casey who plays Frankie. And of course his
partnering with Sarah Wildor in “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” is first rate.
Wildor is a surprise package in the role of Vera Baranova but she seems
to relish in the portrayal of a tempremental ballet star. Her over-egged
accent is first rate and she certainly seemed to delight in the fiery
and sultry scenes with both her husband and Irek Mukhamedov. Of course
her dancing is spot on as the sultry siren in the “Slaughter” ballet but
she plays the comedy aspects of the “Princesse Zenobia” ballet to a “T”.
I agree with RAK too that Mukhamedov makes the most of his smaller role
and he certainly is still a delight to watch as he leaps around the stage.
The only problem I had on Tuesday was with the sound. In the balcony we
had trouble understanding a lot of the dialogue and the singing and I
heard other audience members comment on this in the interval. I think
it was more a problem of balance between the orchestra and microphones
rather than poor diction or projection from the performers, but it is
a problem the company I should imagine will be anxious to resolve.
The design team on this show played to the constraints of the venue by
choosing a simple set with scenery items that evoked location, a simple
red carpet for the arrival of the Russian Ballet, a sumptuous sofa/bed
for Baranova’s dressing room and brightly painted chairs that were used
in all scenes. This meant that the majority of the stage could be used
for the full-on dance sequences and that all scene changes could be completed
swiftly and slickly. Costumes were again well chosen to show off the dancers
attributes with another glitz to draw the eye.
If you are a fan of great dance musicals and hamper back to that golden
age then this musical will be a treat. And it is worth the 2 and a half
hour wait to get to the superbly glitzy “On Your Toes” and the passionate
“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” ballet.
Edited by Jeff.
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