The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Encores! On Your Toes

" See the pretty apple, top of the tree,
The higher up, the sweeter it grows.
Picking fruit you've got to be
Up on your toes!
See the pretty penthouse, top of the roof,
The higher up, the higher rent goes.
Get that dough, don't be a goof;
Up on your toes!"

—refrain from the title song
Irina Dvorovenko and Joaquin De Luz in the La Princesse Zenobia Ballet at the end of the first act of On Your Toes
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Christine Baranski
Christine Baranski as Peggy Porterfield
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
It's a perfect ending for this season's invaluable Encores! series. A musical marriage of jazz and ballet dancing with a fleet footed cast from both the ballet and musical theater world. To play On Your Toes' temperamental Vera Baronova there's the American Ballet Theater's former principal ballerina Irina Dvorovenko. For fans of TV's The Good Wife (aren't we all?) there's Christine Baranski, that show's cool and glamorous legal eagle Diane Lockhart as rich society lady Peggy Porterfield proves that she hasn't lost her musical comedy flair

This is exactly the kind of show that embodies what Encores! is all about. Though the many Broadway transfers of the brief, script in hand concert presentations have inevitably raised the "will it or won't it seed a Broadway production"question, shades of Cabaret and Gypsy, the real mission is to revisit a chapter in musical theater history.

In the case of On Your Toes, that mission is to give audiences an entertaining perspective on the 1936 original's place between vaudeville and Zigfeld Follies type shows and the fully matured musical that allowed represented by Oklahoma. Though geared to the light entertainment hungry tastes of Depression era audiences, On Your Toes, was ground breaking not only in its marriage of jazz and ballet dancing, but in allowing a dancing scene to be more than an extended snippet but to go on for half an hour or more.

The template used by director/choreographer Warren Carlyle for the current Encores! production is the 1983 revival staged by 95-year-old George Abbot. This further adds to this musical's play in the continuing evolution of musical theater. While the musical that organically integrated book and music was firmly established by then, the more recent trend to very dark themed musicals with heavily dissonant scores had yet to evolve. Who would have thought that actors could sing about chronic depression (Next to Normal) or Altzheimer's (The Memory Show)?

And so, while On Your Toes may not have the kind of legs to carry it to yet another Broadway revival, it has plenty of gorgeous and amazingly do-anything legs to make it a treat for anyone who nabbed a ticket for one of its all too limited run. The reason for its must-see pleasures are not from its light as a breeze story or even the songs. Lorenz Hart's lyrics are sexy and full of witty innuendos (Example: "Mother Begged Me 'don’t Drink With Any Guy,'/so I Was Made On Lemonade." from "The Heart is Quicker than the Eye). But there's really only one big breakout number, "There's a Small Hotel, " and that in the sort of easy-over conversational style that was once par for the course.

The plot revolves around Phil (Junior)Dolan (Shonn Wiley--Dalton Harrod as his younger persona), member of a famous vaudeville family turned music professor and his relationship with two talented students, Frankie Frayne (Kelli Barrett) and Sidney Cohn (Jeremy Cohen). Junior is more smitten with Frankie than the song she's written and sold, but in Sidney's case he's in love with the jazz ballet he's written which is, of course, the sensational "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." While Frankie is jealous of Junior's enthusiasm for Sid's work, she loves him enoug to use her connection to wealthy ballet patron Porterfield , who in turn persuades the classical tradition bound Sergei Alexandrovich (Walter Bobbie) director of the Russian Ballet, to have his company stage Cohn's jazz ballet.

Rogers, Hart and Abbott cooked this thin on substance stew it up as a sort of stock pot into which to toss the production numbers, with emphasis on the dancing. That includes not just the terrific comic send-up of classical ballet at the first act finale and the jazzy "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" finale that turns the Russian classical ballerina into a gangster's moll but the sensational title number in which the jazz and ballet get together to strut their stuff. Splendid as the two big end-of-act ballets were, for me, and judging from the cheers at the performance I attended, this was the standout production number of the current On Your Toes.

The casting for this revival couldn't have been better. Heading the list of pleasures to be had from the performers is of course the chance to see Baranski live on stage (and yes, hoofing and singing) and seeing prima ballerina Dvorovenko's make an impressive musical theater debut.

There's also director Walter Bobbie in a rare turn in front of the curtain turning out to be one of the best singers. Joaquin DeLuz (former New York City Ballet principal dancer) is fiery both as Dvorovenko's back stage lover and partner in the two big ballets. While some old-timers might wish for a miraculous return of Ray Bolger for Junior's the hilariously inept contribution to the "Princess Zenobia Ballet," Shonn Wiley handled this difficult part with panache and was perfect as the somewhat innocent professor torn between the sweet student and the glamorous ballerina.

The Encores! orchestra helmed by Rob Fisher sounded great as usual and though perched on stage as is traditional, there was plenty of room for the dancing. Without any big Broadway bells and whistles the production segued seamlessly to the various locations. The benches of Junior's Knickerbocker University classroom were ingeniously transformed into props to showcase the talented ensemble's wondrous leaps in the "On Your Toes" number.

I can't wait for the next Encores! season and it's brand new Encores! Off-Center series focusing on Off-Broadway musicals which will launch in July with Marc Blitztein political musical The Cradle Will Rock.
On Your Toes
Music by Richard Rodgers

Lyrics by Lorenz Hart
Book by Rodgers & Hart and George Abbott
Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle
Music director: Rob Fisher
Cast: Christine Baranski (Peggy Porterfield), Kelli Barrett (Frankie Frayne), Walter Bobbie (Sergei Alexandrovitch), Jeremy Cohen (Sidney Cohn), Joaquin De Luz (Konstantine Morrosine/Beggar), Irina Dvorovenko (Vera Baronova/Princess Zenobia/Strip-Tease Girl), Dalton Harrod (Phil Dolan III, or Junior), Randy Skinner (Phil Dolan II, or Pa), Shonn Wiley (Junior Dolan, 15 years later/Hoofer) and Karen Ziemba (Lil Dolan, or Ma)
Ensemble: Adam Bashian, Brandon Bieber, Justin Bowen, Abby Church, Rachel Coloff, Steve Czarnecki, Christine DiGiallonardo, Deanna Doyle, Ashlee Dupré, Sara Edwards, Jason Michael Evans, Kurt Froman, Luke Hawkins, Jessy Hendrickson, Beth Johnson Nicely, Drew King, Mark Mackillop, Sean McGibbon, Mara Newbery, David Scott Purdy, Ariel Shepley, Nicholas Sipes, Kathy Voytko, Alex Wong .
Sets by John Lee Beatty
Costumes by Amy Clark
Lighting by Ken Billington
Sound by Scott Lehrer
Concert adaptation by David Ives
Music coordinator, Seymour Red Press Original orchestrations by Hans Spialek
Stage manager: Tripp Phillips
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes.
New York City Center Encores! at City Center, 131 West 55th Street 5/9/13 to5/12/13
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at 5/10/13 press preview
Musical Numbers
Act One
    “Two-a-Day For Keith”/Pa, Ma & Young Junior
    “Questions and Answers (The Three B’s)”/Junior & Students
    “It’s Got To Be Love”/Junior, Frankie & Students
    “Too Good for the Average Man”/Sergei & Peggy
    “There’s a Small Hotel”/Frankie & Junior
    “La Princesse Zenobia” BalletVera, Konstantine, Junior & Dance Company
Act Two
    “The Heart Is Quicker Than the Eye”/Peggy & Junior
    “Glad To Be Unhappy”/Frankie
    “Quiet Night”/Hank J. Smith & Students
    “On Your Toes”/Frankie & Students
    “Quiet Night” (Reprise)/Sergei & Ensemble Voices
    “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” /BalletJunior, Vera & Dance Company
    Finale: “There’s a Small Hotel” (Reprise)/Frankie, Junior & Company

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Encores! On Your Toes
  • I disagree with the review of Encores! On Your Toes
  • The review made me eager to see Encores! On Your Toes
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
The New Similes Dictionary

©Copyright 2013, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from