By Tulis McCall
The York Theatre is BACK after it’s disaster of a flood back in January. Their new temporary home is around the corner at The Theatre at St. Jean’s 150 East 76th Street, New York
Now. About Cheek to Cheek: Fabulous dancers. Check. Dancers are equally fabulous singers. Check. Live band. Oh yes please, check. Irving Berlin – DOUBLE check.
That is about all you need to know before you get your tickets to this delicious evening.
Is there anyone who will every tire of Irving Berlin? Blue Skies, Let Yourself Go, Cheek to Cheek, Change Partners (and dance with me). He was a singular, driven talent who wrote from midnight to dawn and spent much of that time pacing. He shuffled back and forth between Hollywood and New York. In Hollywood he managed the delicate maneuver of shuffling back and forth between studios at a time when talent was owned by the studios. He negotiated money and billing credit and pretty much got what he wanted, because what he gave in return was box office gold.
The story by Barry Kleinbort is laid out smoothly between the songs in a chronological sweep from 1927 to 1954 – nearly 4 decades of delivering the simple songs that caught the ear of people who loved to dance. That would be folks born in the 20’s – like my parents. Those people knew how to dance while holding each other. None of this jumping up and down in one place that passes for dancing today.
And this brilliant cast knows from dancing. Randy Skinner’s choreography is a wee bit more fancy than what my parents pulled off. What a pleasure it is to be in a theater where the dancing is not ancillary to the story as in most Broadway shows. Here the dancing IS the story.
There were a few numbers that, really, no one needs to hear. They are danceable, though. As well there were some iconic tunes that were missing like Top Hat and Puttin’ on the Ritz. I would have loved to see this group tear into either of those.
That behind said, this is an ensemble in the highest sense of the word. They sing and dance – and often to both at the same time which, let’s face it, is insane. No one gets much time to rest before they are back out on that stage with a new outfit and a different partner ready to bedazzle us all.
This happens over and over and over again. This company does not miss a beat or drop a stitch. They sweep you up into their arms and carry you into that land where men and women danced with each other with passion, attitude and ALWAYS a smile. When it is over you may want to go order a burger at Orsay because you will feel exhausted just sharing the rarified air with these performing gems.
CHEEK TO CHEEK – Irving Berlin in Hollywood – Conceived, directed,and choreographed by Randy Skinner, Book by Barry Kleinbort, and music direction by David Hancock Turner
WITH Phillip Attmore, Jeremy Benton, Victoria Byrd, Kaitlyn Davidson, Joseph Medeiros, and Melanie Moore. Understudies Corinne Munsch and Sean Quinn – I usually don’t mention understudies, but these two must be crazy good to memorize three different dancers’ work!!
THROUGH JANUARY 2 tickets HERE – NOTE York Theatre has found a beautiful new temporary home at The Theatre at St. Jean’s 150 East 76th Street, New York, NY 10021