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On Your Toes

On Your Toes
Original Promotional Material
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart
Book Richard Rodgers
George Abbott
Lorenz Hart
Productions 1936 Broadway
1939 Film
1954 Broadway revival
1983 Broadway revival
Awards 1983 Tony Award for Best Reproduction
1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival

On Your Toes (1936) is a Lorenz Hart, music by Rodgers, and lyrics by Hart. It was adapted into a film in 1939.

While teaching music at Knickerbocker University, Phil "Junior" Dolan III 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 Barnova, 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.

On Your Toes marked the first time a Broadway musical made dramatic use of classical dance and incorporated jazz into its score.


  • Background 1
  • Productions 2
  • Synopsis 3
  • Original song list 4
  • 1983 awards and nominations 5
  • Film adaptation 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


On Your Toes was originally conceived as a film, and as a vehicle for Fred Astaire. His refusal of the part, because he thought that the role clashed with his debonair image developed in his contemporary films, caused it to be produced as a theatrical performance. Richard Rodgers wrote: "Astaire at that point in his career was a pretty chic fellow who usually wore white ties and tails, and the producers felt that there was no chance in our script for him to appear that way."[1][2] Astaire thought that the ballet background in the plot was too "highbrow" for his audiences.[3] Ray Bolger was given the role, which allowed him to rise to stardom.


The first Broadway production, directed by C. Worthington Miner and choreographed by Imperial Theatre, where it ran for seven months before transferring to the Majestic, for a total run of 315 performances. The cast included Ray Bolger, Tamara Geva, and Monty Woolley.

The London West End production opened on 5 February 1937 at the Palace Theatre, with Jack Whiting and Vera Zorina as the dancers.

1954 Revival cast recording

The first Broadway revival, directed by Abbott and choreographed by Balanchine, opened on October 11, 1954 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 64 performances. The cast included Vera Zorina, Bobby Van, and Elaine Stritch. The original score was embellished with "You Took Advantage of Me.""

The second revival, directed by Abbott and choreographed by Dina Merrill, Philip Arthur Ross, Betty Ann Grove and Lara Teeter.[5]


Act I

On a vaudeville stage, Phil Dolan II, his wife Lili, and his son Junior perform their nightly routine, but afterwards in the dressing-room, the parents tell Junior that he has to go to school. Fifteen years later, as predicted, Junior is a music teacher at Knickerbocker University. He has two talented students: Sidney Cohn and Frankie Frayne. Sidney has written a promising jazz ballet which Frankie catches Junior dancing to alone in the classroom (uncovering his "secret past"), and she trades an introduction to the Russian Ballet's manager in return for his listening to her song.

In the apartment of Vera Baranova, star of the Russian Ballet, Peggy, the manager, enthusiastically tells Sergei, the company's director, about the new jazz ballet. He is not interested in anything new - he doesn't even recognise that the Revolution has happened! Junior arrives as Vera and co-star/unfaithful lover Morrisone are having a Russian screaming match. The others leave, so that Vera and Junior can discuss the new ballet, but that leads to a new entanglement.

Back in the classroom, Frankie is jealous of Junior's stories about Vera and the Russians (Peggy has promised him a chance to dance in the corps de ballet), and they both wish they were away from it all. At the opening of the ballet, La Princesse Zenobia, Junior is told that one of the dancers is in jail and he has to take his place, but onstage he gets all his steps, rhythms and positions cock-eyed and makes a laughing-stock of the ballet. But the audience loves it, nevertheless.

Act II

Sergei, Peggy, Vera, Morrosine and Junior have listened to the jazz ballet. Opinions are mixed, and Vera and Morrosine are still arguing, as he becomes increasingly jealous of Junior. Poor Junior has got love problems, too: he upsets Frankie by going to lunch with Vera (for business reasons) instead of her, but she is "Glad to be Unhappy".

Then Peggy, Sergei, and some of the company visit Junior's school. Sergei has come to break the bad news that he will not be doing the jazz ballet, but Peggy persuades him by threatening to pull out the million dollars she has put into the company. After Sergei's announcement that the next production will be Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the class put on the title number "On Your Toes", in which the students' jazz and the company's classical routines are deftly combined.

At a rehearsal, Morrosine's jealousy of Junior gets out of control, there is a fight in which he is knocked out by Sergei, and suddenly Junior is the new star. The humiliated Morrosine plots with his gangster friend, Louie, to shoot Junior at the end of the performance. Joe, the stage doorman, overhears and warns Frankie. On-stage, Junior is tipped off and signals to the conductor to avoid the final loud climax which would cover the shot, so he keeps the orchestra playing the last few bars of the music over and over as Junior dances frantically to keep the shooter from firing. Finally, he is grabbed by the police. After the curtain call, Junior is embraced by Frankie, and is startled to see his parents waiting to congratulate him. The music-teacher has made it back to his home-ground - the stage.

Original song list

1983 awards and nominations

1983 revival cast recording

Film adaptation

In 1939, Warner Bros. filmed On Your Toes as adapted by Sig Herzig and Lawrence Riley and written by Richard Macauley and Jerry Wald, with Ray Enright directing. The film stars ballerina Vera Zorina (billed as "Zorina"), Eddie Albert, Alan Hale and Frank McHugh, and features Leonid Kinskey and Gloria Dickson, with James Gleason, Erik Rhodes, Berton Churchill and Donald O'Connor.

Although some of the songs from the Broadway score were used as background music, the film does not have any singing in it. The "[6]


  1. ^ Writer's Notes, Richard Rodgers R&H, accessed May 19, 2009
  2. ^ Grimmond, Peter. Oxford Companion to Popular Music, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-280004-3
  3. ^ Hemming, Roy. The melody lingers on (1999), Newmarket Press, ISBN 1-55704-380-9, p. 224
  4. ^ Natalia Makarova to Return to 'Toes', NY Times, February 1, 1983, accessed May 2, 2009
  5. ^ On Your Toes, IBDB - Internet Broadway Database, accessed May 2, 2009
  6. ^ Reid, John. More Movie Musicals (2006), Lulu.comp, ISBN 1-4116-7342-5, 129

External links

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