On Your Toes
This has been quite a week for the late George Balanchine, whose work was already performed by NYC Ballet over at Lincoln Center.
“Nikolai and the Others,” the new play about the creation of Balanchine’s 1940s ballet “Orpheus,” opened Monday, and Encores! is reviving the 1936 musical “On Your Toes,” which Balanchine originally choreographed, at City Center through this weekend.
In “On Your Toes,” composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart attempted to merge ballet with Broadway. Although the musical is rarely performed, its jazz ballet “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” has entered the dance repertory.
The rather inconsequential plot, which revolves around a vaudevillian turned music professor (played by Shonn Wiley) and his romantic encounters with an aspiring songwriter (Kelli Barrett) and a Russian ballerina (Irina Dvorovenko), exists mainly to culminate in the presentation of “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.”
Besides the American Songbook standard “There’s a Small Hotel” and the poignant “Glad to Be Unhappy,” the score is breezy but unmemorable, especially when compared to far better Rodgers & Hart works such as “Pal Joey” and “Babes in Arms.”
Susan Pilarre, the ballet mistress of the 1983 Broadway revival of “On Your Toes,” has restaged “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” which is somewhat clumsily performed. Warren Carlyle’s choreography for the upbeat title number, which brings together classical dancers and tap dancing hoofers, comes off better.
Nevertheless, this production, which features enjoyable comedic turns from Christine Baranski and Walter Bobbie, offers a fair amount of fun.
“On Your Toes” plays at City Center through Sunday. 131 W. 55th St., 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org.