Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
From On Your Toes
Richard Rodgers/Hershy Kay
Photo © Paul Kolnik
Balanchine originally choreographed Slaughter on Tenth Avenue in 1936 for the musical On Your Toes, in which Ray Bolger played the Hoofer and Tamara Geva portrayed the Stripper. The show was a parody of Broadway, Russian ballet, and the mob. Briefly told, it is the story of a jealous Russian premier danseur who hires a mobster to kill a rival during the premiere of a new ballet. Slaughter on Tenth Avenueis the story of a tacky strip joint and the customer who falls in love with the Big Boss’ girl.
On Your Toes was the first of four Rodgers and Hart musicals choreographed by Balanchine. It was followed by Babes in Arms, I Married an Angel, and The Boys from Syracuse.
Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) met Lorenz Hart in 1918 and began to collaborate with him on the lyrics for popular songs. Their first success was Garrick Gaities in 1925. Between 1926 and 1930, Rodgers and Hart were among America’s most popular songwriters, producing many songs for musicals and revues on Broadway and in London’s West End. After four years in Hollywood (1930-1934) writing for films, they returned to New York in 1935. In 1936, Rodger’s first major orchestral music for a ballet sequence was premiered in On Your Toes; it was the ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Hart’s death in 1943 ended a prolific partnership that had produced musicals, films and film versions of their stage presentations. In 1943, Rodgers began collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein II; their first success, Oklahoma, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944. Other works that Rodgers and Hammerstein brought to the stage include Carousel, Allegro, The King and I and The Sound of Music. Their work on South Pacific brought them a second Pulitzer Prize in 1950.
Hershy Kay (1919-1981) established himself as a preeminent orchestrator of musicals with Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town in 1944. His works for ballet include Cakewalk, Clowns, Western Symphony, The Concert, Stars and Stripes, Who Cares?, and Union Jack; his works for musical theater include Peter Pan, Once Upon a Mattress, Candide, A Chorus Line, Evita, and Barnum. A composer in his own right, Hershy Kay also reconstructed Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, which later became the Balanchine ballet Tarantella. Mr. Kay’s work also includes a children’s record, Mother Goose.