The opening scene of To Dance leaps with energy. A young man in Cold War Russia sings about making art in the face of communist oppression, as a group of Americans rally in support; musical lines intersect and build in a passionate crescendo. Such excitement, unfortunately, is rarely felt again in this promising but ultimately unfulfilled new musical, with book and lyrics by Kyra Kaptzan Robinov and music by Tibor Zonai. To Dance tells the real-life story of Valery Panov (Jesse Carrey), a Jewish dancer in the Kirov Ballet who rebelled against strict KGB control of the company during the ’60s and early ’70s, and eventually left his home country for good. But little in the musical captures the spirit of these revolutionary acts, and To Dance seems oddly devoid of both the Russian culture it champions and the terror of the oppression it warns against. Many of the characters lack dimension, and Zonai's tunes often seem at odds with the story. (When Panov is lying close to death in prison, the accompanying number is so upbeat that I almost expected jazz hands.) Happily, several of the actors rise above the material: Carrey imbues the lead character with grace and defiance, as well as a Broadway-caliber voice and superior dancing skills; Kathryn Morgan, a former member of New York City Ballet, shines as his girlfriend, Galina, dancing with great strength and artistry. When they are center stage, the musical comes closest to meeting its potential as the ode its title suggests.—John-Stuart Fauquet
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