Hot Feet

  • Date:
    April 1, 2006
    Review by:
    Barbara Mehlman

    Music & Lyrics by: Maurice White
    Book by: Heru Ptah
    Directed by: Maurice Hines
    Cast: Vivian Nixon, Keith David, Ann Duquesnay, Allen Hidalgo, Wynonna Smith Michael Balderrama and Samatha Pollino + Ensemble
    Synopsis: A Faustian tale about a beautiful young dancer - Kalimba, whose whole life�s dreams and ambition are to be a Broadway dancer. Kalimba is cajoled to dance with a pair of magical and enchanted red shoes, when she puts them on they begin to take control of the talented dancer�s fate.

    "Hot Feet" is based on the Hans Christian Anderson story of "The Red Shoes," a pair of dancing slippers that serves as a metaphor for the seductive power of the devil. The fairy tale, which was also the basis for the 1948 British film with Moira Shearer, tells of a poor little girl who became enthralled with a pair of red dance shoes that eventually fixed themselves permanently to her feet, and compelled her to dance till she died -- a punishment for

    her vanity. The movie took this story, gave it a romantic twist, and told of a beautiful ballerina under the magnetic spell of a possessive ballet master, who became jealous when she fell in love with another man, not just because he wanted her, but because he needed her to dance in his new ballet, "The Red Shoes." She eventually does, and when she dons the red slippers, she also dances till she dies. -- a punishment for choosing career over marriage.

    "Hot Feet" retells this story yet again, but gives it still another twist, one that pushes it through a horn till it is born into a blue-sy note, told and danced to the music of Earth Wind and Fire.

    This version begins with Emma, a poor young girl who wants to dance, and daydreams herself into a dance class. But her reverie is interrupted by the mysterious appearance of Louie, a shoemaker who shows her a glittery pair of red shoes he made. The girl covets them and Louie, who is not what he seems to be, tells her the story of Kalimba, a beautiful girl who intends to dance, even over her mother's strong objections.

    Kalimba joins Victor Serpentine's dance company, and is given a place in the corps, then promptly falls in love with Anthony, one of Victor's dancing masters who aspires to have his own company. Victor, of course, is jealous, gets angry, makes threats, and then makes a deal with -- Louie! -- who wants Kalimba's soul in exchange for her dancing in "The Red Shoes" with the red shoes.

    Well, you know what happens. It's because Kalimba didn't listen to her mother. And as you'd expect, there's lots of wonderful dancing before she dies thanks to Maurice Hines' inventive choreography.

    Vivian Nixon is Kalimba, and an exquisite ballerina who's a joy to watch. Keith David, most recently seen in the film, "Crash," makes Victor a menacing presence, a kind of musical James Earl Jones. He rules everyone including Naomi, his girlfriend of a certain age, played with wit and sauce by Wynonna Smith.

    The only clinker in the otherwise excellent cast is Michael Balderrama who does a bad job of making us believe he's an experienced dancer. He has impressive credits -- "Saturday Night Fever" and "Movin' Out" -- but his dancing is stiff and jerky. Whatever the problem, if it isn't fixable, Balderrama should be replaced.

    Heru Ptah's script is intelligent and witty, and all of EW&F's hit songs are part of the show, so if you love dance, and the music of this R&B group (I don't), then add a star to my otherwise Average rating.



    What the critics had to say.....

    BEN BRANTLEY of the NEW YORK TIMES says �Rarely can so much energy have been expended on a Broadway stage to such dubious ends.�

    CLIVE BARNES of THE NEW YORK POST says "Some feet are hot and some feet are not so hot. Maurice Hines' dance- ical 'Hot Feet,' which limped enthusiastically into the Hilton Theatre last night, is barely lukewarm."

    MICHAEL SOMMERS of the STAR-LEDGER says "Love the shining songs of Earth, Wind & Fire? Like watching a talented crew of sexy dancers? Don't mind too much a terribly trite story? Then the new dance musical 'Hot Feet' just might be a comfortable fit."

    ELYSA GARDNER of USA TODAY says "It was with more than a little disappointment that I found myself wondering why I hadn't just stayed home"

    JACQUES LE SOURD of JOURNAL NEWS says "It may not be the stuff of a conventional Broadway musical, but it's aerobically first-rate."

    PETER MARKS of the WASHINGTON POST says "The jaw-dropping truth: 'Hot Feet' is a serpentine misfire."

    LINDA WINER of NEWSDAY says "There simply isn't enough charm in the story, narrative momentum in the music or individual voice in the choreography to feed the demands of a full-length dance musical."

    MICHAEL KUCHWARA of the ASSOCIATED PRESS says " 'Hot Feet.' Cold plot. There's a story connected to this exhausting new dance musical, but it's best not to think too much about it. In fact, the lame tale trips up this hyper-kinetic show"

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Post
    USA Today
    Journal News
    Washington Post
    Associated Press