This will take a few days, so I'll keep bumping it up to the top as I add stuff. "On Your Toes" was conceived by Rodgers and Hart as a vehicle for Fred Astaire, but he was nervous about the ballet numbers and so he passed. R&H brought it back to Broadway and turned it into a stage musical with Ray Bolger (made him a big star), Tamara Geva, Luella Gear and Monty Wolley. The show was a huge hit in New York at the Imperial and the Majestic Theater, then was transferred to London with an identical production starring Jack Whiting, the Matthew Broderick of his day. It was a huge... failure. It only ran 81 performances. The show was just too avant garde for London audiences of the day (marking the last Rodgers and Hart London transfer before the war). It's a shame because Whiting was very good and the female star was the young and beautiful Vera Zorina. The two good things to come out of the London production are the only period recordings of the hit songs with the original pit orchestra and this wonderful magazine supplement in "Play Pictorial" which absolutely captures the feel of a big American musical of the 30s and the amazing scenery designed by Jo Mielziner (and reproduced for the British production). Oh and the score is amazing.
One of my favorite photos from the original New York production. This was clearly taken for publicity purposes before the costumes were finished as it's a hodge poge of costumes from several numbers. Tamara Geva is the main dancer and apparently, Ray Bolger is about to do the bolero number that must have been cut later.
Here's the amazing cover of the Broadway souvenir program from the original run, complete with nude dancers. I may not scan all of this as it's pristine mint and I don't want to damage it.
Here's Tamara Geva (real name Tamara Gevergeyeva) the star of the OBC. She was one of the many wives of the choreographer of the show, George Balanchine. Eventually, he married Vera Zorina as well.
Here's a review of the OBC from "Cue Magazine"
And just a few pages away I discovered THIS neat photo. It's Vera Zorina, who will play Vera Barnova in "On Your Toes" a few months later in London, Sono Osato, who will play Ivy Smith, the dance lead in "On The Town" in 1944 and Alexandra Danilova, an amazing dancer and yet ANOTHER wife of Balanchine. That man got around!
Strangely enough, the original program has no photos from "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" the big ballet that caps the show. (Yes, "On Your Toes" had two big ballets which advance the story fully five years before "Oklahoma" which is always listed as the first show to incorporate ballets. Here's a candid photo taken from the wings during the ballet...
I also got a copy of the pre-Broadway tryout (big shout out to Paul Ydstie at Broadway!!! on eBay).
Notice all the sludge at the beginning of the show. This is before George Abbott came to Boston and turned the show from a flop to a big hit by using his big red pen on the script and score.
Here's an amazing photo from the rehearsals. That's Ray Bolger being menaced by Montey Woolley. Monty was actually a director and a college professor who was given his first professional acting role because of his great beard. He went on to star in many hits including "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
Another amazing rehearsal photo. The cast are bravely pretending this is a completed number, save for the fact it's against the wrong set and the costumes are a hodge podge from several scenes. This is the title number.
Another rehearsal photo. Right set, wrong costumes. Tamara Geva on point, Dimitrios Vilain on his knee. Curiously and humorously enough, the striped tights were worn by the MALE dancers in this number "La Princess Zenobia" Ballet.
Here's the finished product from the photocopy London production. Same set, different costumes.
Opening page of the Broadway souvenir program
Luella Gear was always described as "droll" and her songs were often described as "smutty." Bet she was a hoot at a party.
These were very expensive tickets for 1936, which was still in the Depression. $2.20 for the front of the Balcony is a sure sign the show was a hit.
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