Though the cast includes Tony-winning Broadway pros such as Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) and Karen Ziemba (Contact), it’s the dancers who seize the spotlight in a new revival of the 1936 Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart musical On Your Toes, which runs through this Sunday at New York City Center as part of the Encores! series. Given that two prominent roles are held by American Ballet Theatre veterans Irina Dvorovenko and Joaquin De Luz, the show’s title can be taken literally. Dvorovenko and several ensemble members perform en pointe during several routines, which have been artfully staged by director-choreographer Warren Carlyle incorporating some of George Balanchine’s original dance moves. Traditional ballet blend seamlessly with tap and soft-shoe dancing by the rest of the cast, particularly in the show-stopping title number that highlights the second act.
Rodgers and Hart’s score includes some lovely gems, including the romantic duet “There’s a Small Hotel,” the clever “The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye,” and Balanchine’s breezy jazz ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. The story is a bit of period piffle about a teenage vaudeville hoofer-turned-music professor called Junior (Shonn Wiley, a fine singer but less convincing as a romantic lead) who gets caught up in a Russian ballet company run by the imperious maestro Sergei Alexandrovitch (Walter Bobbie) and the brassy patroness Peggy Porterfield (Baranski). In typical screwball fashion, Junior also finds himself in a love triangle between the temperamental prima ballerina Vera Baronova (Dvorovenko, showing surprising comic chops) and the sweet girl next door and aspiring songwriter Frankie Frayne (silver-voiced Kelli Barrett). “Can a good man love two women at the same time?” our hero asks Porterfield at one point. Her deliciously deadpan reply: “If he’s very good.”
In its spirited blend of dance styles, On Your Toes can be very good indeed.
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