Chet Walker's Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project, With David Elder, Rachelle Rak, Opens in Queens

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09 May 2012

Rachelle Rak
Rachelle Rak
Carol Rosegg

Broadway dancers stud the new musical Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project, about the father of theatrical jazz and musical-theatre dance, in its world premiere, opening May 9 following previews from May 3 at Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The show is conceived, directed and choreographed by Chet Walker, co-creator of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Fosse.

A gala with special guests will precede the opening-night performance. The guest list includes many former Jack Cole stars and others. Among dance luminaries expected are Chita Rivera, Marge Champion, Donna McKechnie, Mercedes Ellington, Jacques d'Amboise and more.

Walker's Heat Wave cast includes Emanuel Abruzzo, Colin Bradbury, David Elder, Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Andrew Fitch, Leeds Hill, Nadine Isenegger, Joshua Schulteis, Kristin Piro, Rachelle Rak, Matt Rivera, Lindsay Roginski and Jena VanElslander.

The new musical pays tribute to dancer-choreographer Cole (1911-1974) and touches on the work he created for Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and many other stars of movie musicals. Recreations of classic dances are mixed with new Cole-inspired work. Performances continue to May 20; the creators are hoping for a wider commercial life for the show.

Expect the show to display Cole's signature knee slides, struts and slinky sexuality. Cole influenced a new generation of dancers and choreographers, including Bob Fosse, Gwen Verdon and Michael Bennett.



Cole's choreography was seen in Broadway and movie musicals, nightclub acts and television variety shows. He is best known for his work with Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and Ann Miller on such films as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Gilda," "Some Like It Hot," "No Business Like Show Business" and "Les Girls" and on stage in Kismet, Man of La Mancha and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Ray Cullom, executive director of Queens Theatre, said in an earlier statement, "As a new center for development of new and innovative performance work, this is at the heart what we do at the theatre, and to have found such a generous, willing and renowned collaborator as Chet is overwhelming. It is sure to be an exciting production that we hope might have a future life in the city — perhaps even on Broadway."

Walker is a protégé of Bob Fosse and began performing on Broadway at the age of 16 in the first revival of On the Town. He went on to work with Fosse on The Pajama Game, Pippin, Dancin' and Sweet Charity. His company, WALKERDANCE, recently became the first resident dance company in the history of the Queens Theatre.

Produced by Queens Theatre, Heat Wave is "an all-singing, all-dancing tribute to the work of Jack Cole, featuring recreations of more than two dozen Cole numbers from such films as 'There's No Business Like Show Business,' 'Kismet,' 'Les Girls' and 'On the Riviera,' as well as new pieces choreographed in Cole's inimitable style," according to Queens Theatre notes.

Queens Theatre is located at 14 United Nations Avenue South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, NY.

Tickets are on sale at the Queens Theatre Box Office, by phone at (718) 760-0064 or online at queenstheatre.org.