Brind School of Theater Arts and School of Dance Collaborate to Bring 'On Your Toes' to Merriam Stage

Classic 1936 musical follows former 'hoofer' from Vaudeville to the Russian Ballet via the gangster underworld.

February 23, 2010

The School of Dance and the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts collaborate to bring the 1936 musical comedy "On Your Toes" to the stage at the Merriam Theater (250 S. Broad St.) March 24 – 28.

Premiering in 1936 at New York City’s Imperial Theatre with direction by C. Worthington Miner and choreography by George Balanchine, the musical was written by Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and George Abbott, with music by Rodgers and lyrics by Hart. The show marked the first time a Broadway musical made dramatic use of classical dance and incorporated jazz into its score. Its jazz ballet finale, "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," remains a repertory staple of ballet companies worldwide. The score includes the standards "Glad to Be Unhappy" and "There's a Small Hotel."

While teaching music at Knickerbocker University, Phil "Junior" Dolan tries to persuade Sergei Alexandrovich, the director of the Russian Ballet, to stage the jazz ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." After becoming involved with the company's prima ballerina, Vera Baranova, Junior is forced to assume the male lead in "Slaughter." Trouble ensues when he becomes the target of two thugs hired by Vera’s lover and dance partner to kill him.

The cast and production team received invaluable insights into the show when actor Lara Teeter paid a visit to rehearsals on March 1 and 2. Tony Award nominated for his portrayal of Junior Dolan in the 1983 Broadway revival of "On Your Toes," Teeter heads the Conservatory of Musical Theater at Webster University. He offered students his comments about the style and interpretation of the piece, and regaled them with tales about his experiences working with "Mister Abbott" (George Abbott), who directed the show at the age of 100.

Direction by Brind School Assistant Professor and Barrymore Award nominee Dr. Patricia Raine; choreography by School of Dance Adjunct Associate Professor Scott Jovovich and Nancy Berman Kantra, Associate Professor in the Brind School. Starring Garrett Olthuis as Junior Dolan, MacKenzie Nehme as Vera Baranova, Abigail Grenda as Frankie Frayne, Ryan Demoville as Konstantine Morrosine, Shoshana Katz as Peggy Porterfield, Rory Donovan as Sergei Alexandrovitch and Brendan Dalton as Sidney Cohn.

"On Your Toes" is the College of Performing Arts’ first Main Stage performance of the semester. $20/general admission; $10/seniors (65+) and non-University of the Arts students; $5/children (9 – 14) and University of the Arts alumni; complimentary admission for the University of the Arts community. The show runs March 24 - 27 (8 p.m.) and March 27 - 28 (2 p.m.) at the Merriam Theater (250 S. Broad St., Philadelphia). For tickets, show times and more information, call 215-545-1664, email sotatickets@uarts.edu or visit uarts.ticketleap.com.

Above: MacKenzie Nehme '10 (Musical Theater) and Garrett Olthuis '10 (Ballet) star in "On Your Toes" (photo by Jason Chen '08 [Animation]).

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