Earth, Wind & Fire tuner slated to open at Hilton April 30

Following tepid critical reaction to the $8 million musical’s out-of-town tryout in D.C., the creative team behind “Hot Feet” is implementing a series of modifications in preparation for the show’s planned Broadway opening. The Earth, Wind & Fire tuner, which features choreography by Maurice Hines, is slated to open at New York’s Hilton Theater on April 30.

Local critics found particular fault with the book by newcomer Heru Ptah. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Red Shoes,” it spins a Faustian urban fable about a young dancer’s pursuit of a career, thwarted by such obstacles as a power-hungry, lecherous impresario, lovesick choreographer and Satan himself. Cast includes Vivian Nixon, Keith David, Ann Duquesnay, Allen Hidalgo, Wynonna Smith and Michael Balderrama.

“Hot Feet” weaves the tale around EWF’s hits, along with several new songs written by the group’s founder, Maurice White.

Following its opening here Tuesday, Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks called “Hot Feet” a “serpentine misfire” that suffers from a “jury-rigged” plot, among other shortcomings. The tuner “cuts a clueless-verging-on-vulgar swath through the terrain of that Broadway staple, the backstage musical,” he wrote.

Washington Times’ Jean Battey Lewis also criticized the book, especially its ending, for “straining credulity even for a fairy tale.” But she found Nixon “appealing” as the dance starlet and was positive about perfs by Duquesnay as the dancer’s mother, Smith as the rival dancer and Balderrama as the boyfriend.

Co-producer Herb Trawick says book changes are under way to illuminate the storyline more clearly as part of the normal tryout tweaking process while the dance-based show prepares for New York. In addition, some numbers are being trimmed, he says.

“It’s fair to say that both Hines and White have made their careers from pleasing audiences,” said Trawick, adding reaction from D.C. auds has been overwhelmingly positive.

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