On Your Toes, Royal Festival Hall, London
Friday 08 August 2003
Given that Natalia Makarova was the star of this show's last London production, it might seem odd for Adam Cooper's name to head the company list this time, but why worry? He has, after all, a bigger personality than most dancers: picked out early by Sylvie Guillem as her partner, chosen to create the male swan in Matthew Bourne's big hit Swan Lake, and featured as the grown-up Billy Elliott in that famous film.
Is there nothing the man can't do? Well, On Your Toes shows up quite a few more that he can do. As Junior Dolan, ex-hoofer turned into music teacher and finally ballet dancer, he gets to talk, to sing, and to reveal a hitherto hidden aspect of his dancing skills: tap. He sings pretty well, and his acting of what is basically a one-dimensional character gives the role conviction and charm.
Cooper shares the performing honours with his wife, Sarah Wildor, and Irek Mukhamedov; both of them, like him, former stars of the Royal Ballet. Wildor, playing the ballerina heroine, has to cope with a heavy Russian accent, and gets her jokes across every time in spite of that (her dancing jokes too). As for Mukhamedov, the role of her partner is a wonderful one for him - a part that could go for very little, but he makes it a real hit all the time.
Adam Cooper is involved in another way with this production: as choreographer. The title song, treated as a big ensemble number, is great, and the "Princesse Zenobia'' spoof ballet gets its full share of laughs, not least for Cooper's portrait of a stand-in dancer getting everything wrong.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart devised the show and wrote marvellous, unforgettable music for it that comes up as bright, fresh and irresistible as ever.
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