The world premiere of Heat Wave: The Jack Cole Project will burst into song and dance on stage – Broadway-style – featuring those famous knee slides and struts that are quintessential Cole. Who can forget his unforgettable dance moves, showcased in so many Broadway musicals, past and present?
Heat Wave creator, director-choreographer Chet Walker’s “baby” was conceived over 5 years ago at dancer center, school and performance space, Jacob’s Pillow, in The Berkshires (Western Massachusetts), where Walker directs the jazz and musical theater dance program.
The blonde-haired, impish and very fit Cole enthusiast is the co-creator of that unforgettable 1999 Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Fosse.”
Walker and his troupe have been super-busy, rehearsing at the Queens Theatre for several weeks after auditions in Manhattan, where 13 star Broadway dancers were chosen for the new show and assigned the wonderfully creative, yet physically grueling task of recreating the magic and history of Cole’s works.
Cole’s style is all about a stronger type of slinky sexuality than Fosse’s, and he’s best known for his work with Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and Ann Miller, on such films as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "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.”
Two dozen plus dazzling numbers from Cole’s iconic pieces, as well as Cole-inspired numbers – a la Chet Walker – will be brought to life in Heat Wave.
In a recent phone interview between rehearsals, Walker recalled his days as Bob Fosse’s protégé: “I worked with Fosse since I was 16, till the day before he took his last breath, in 1987.
For over 20 years, Fosse was my mentor and boss. The way he worked was what inspired me –he worked with dancers with an actor’s point of view,” he said.
Commuting to Queens from his home in Bergen County, NJ, the choreographer said he got his lucky break at 17, with his first Broadway show, “On the Town,” which eventually led to working with Fosse on “The Pajama Game,” “Pippin,” “Dancin'” and “Sweet Charity.”
When asked how do Fosse and Cole differ?
Walker noted that where Fosse has a style, Cole has a technique. To create choreography, Cole starts with technique.
Bringing in that Jack Cole element in his dance moves, David Elder, Heat Wave’s principal male performer, will be featured opposite the 12 dancers in the ensemble.
For the past 22 years, he has lived in Jackson Heights, Queens at The Towers on 80th and Northern Blvd., and has performed on and off Broadway (in 8 Broadway shows), since his debut in Guys and Dolls in 1992. Elder, 45, hails from Houston, TX.
The dancer took time out from rehearsals for a phone interview:
TS: Can you describe your experience with Heat Wave?
DE: It’s a very exciting process, trying to recreate this man’s work; we haven’t really celebrated Cole as much as Fosse. Chet was instrumental in getting Fosse on Broadway, and I believe he’s taking sort of the same approach with this show by trying to get these great numbers Cole did.
Elder: Chet is a dream to work with. He has so much vision for what he wants to create; a plethora of history from this man (Cole), from which we’re doing all these numbers.
In this production, they’re dancing Jack Cole style: really strong – bent knees, Latin Swing influence; very different from Fosse – sexier. Cole is still sexy, but through the athleticism, strength.
Elder said he likes Tony award-winning actress, singer and dancer (“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Anything Goes”) Sutton Foster: “She has pizzazz; presents a new generation; provides that excitement level and very funny.”
The dancer enjoys his co-op’s garden area and just being home or working out at NY Sports Club.
But on his days off, he escapes to his house in Roscoe, NY in the Catskills. “I enjoy the calmness. Nature refuels me. Riding my lawn mower in my yard is heaven.”
Recently, Elder performed in “Neil Berg's 100 years of Broadway” at Queens College in Flushing.
The rest of the Heat Wave cast of Broadway dancers include: Emanuel Abruzzo (who lives in Sunnyside, Queens), Rachelle Rak, Colin Bradbury, Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Andrew Fitch, Leeds Hill, Nadine Isenegger, Joshua Schulteis, Kristin Piro, Matt Rivera, Lindsay Roginski, and Jena VanElslander.
Queens Theatre is located at 14 United Nations Avenue South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, NY.
Tickets are on sale at the Box Office, by phone at (718) 760-0064 or online at www.queenstheatre.org.