'On Your Toes'

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

by Joanne Brack

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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