By Marlene S. Gaylinn

Where have all the great song and dance men gone?   Most of these old-time vaudeville entertainers are now memories, but Jon Peterson, a great hoofer himself, is keeping some of the best performers alive at Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre.

Peterson created this one-man song and dance show and performs two full acts while constantly on-stage – which is a wonder in itself because he’s not a youngster anymore.  When he’s not singing or dancing, the slightly built showman manages to catch his breath while explaining his personal background and introducing the history of his art.  He also applies make-up and changes costumes as he relates interesting anecdotes about the various stars he is about to emulate.  The soloist’s pace is like a three-ring circus and the dialog is very entertaining and informative. 
After receiving classical training at England’s Royal Ballet School, Peterson decided to specialize in tap-dancing.  He eventually worked his way up to major roles in musicals, received many honors and awards, toured, and played both on and off Broadway.  Along the way, this intelligent, song and dance man has done his research and acquired the skill to become a dancing encyclopedia.  His real gift is to share his dance knowledge with the audience.
Peterson not only performs very intricate, tap-talking combinations, he actually takes on the dance-styles and appearance of his selected stars.  He presents his selected performers in historical order and then he progresses with their individual histories and development throughout the past century.  Thus we see a hyperactive, George M. Cohan giving his regards to Broadway, the smooth and lyrical Fred Astaire, an athletic, “Singn’ in the Rain” Gene Kelly, the sprite, clownish Donald O’Connor, a “Splish Splash” Bobby Darin, a stubborn, tapping-trickster, Sammy Davis Jr. and the British born, Anthony Newley.  Not every great song and dance man is represented.  For example, Ray Bolger and Michael Jackson were not mentioned and Tommy Tune plus a few others are still kicking around.  The nostalgic personalities Peterson selected are simply his own, old-time favorites. 

While it’s evident that the Peterson is more of a dance man than a song man (many showmen were not really great singers) it’s mainly the fancy footwork, followed closely by a live, four-piece band under the direction of Richard DeRosa, that is bringing the audience to its feet.
Dance viewing in the U.S. was never as popular as it is now.  Thanks to “So You Think You Can Dance,”  “Dancing With the Stars,” and other contests, TV audiences numbering in the millions can’t seem to get enough of it.  Just keep in mind that there are numerous dance styles and the fickle finger of fashion dictates the current popularity trend.  The old song and dance men have practically vanished and this may be the last time you will get a comprehensive overview of what once made them so popular.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to see a truly great performance by one of the last song and dance men.

“Song Man Dance Man” plays through November 29 at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.  For tickets: 203-757- 4676.

Marlene S. Gaylinn is a member of ct critics circle: ctcritics.org.

This article appears in “Connecticut On Line.” 

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