Dancer to Dancer

Spencer Liff knows how to perform under pressure. Over nine seasons of "So You Think You Can Dance," the Broadway wunderkind has dreamed up number after Emmy-nominated number within the show's punishing under-a-week rehearsal period. You might not realize from watching his fast-paced, endlessly inventive numbers that "SYTYCD" was Liff's first solo choreographic gig, coming right after he danced for and assisted Broadway royalty like Rob Ashford, Kathleen Marshall, and Sergio Trujillo. Liff's choreo for the acclaimed revival of Falsettos is now streaming on BroadwayHD, and keep an eye out for his latest Broadway show Head Over Heels, hitting the boards in early 2018. —Helen Rolfe

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It's lights-out for the flashiest show on network television.

The show's over for "Smash." NBC's Broadway drama was cancelled last week after two seasons. And while I know, given the verrrrry mixed critical reactions to the troubled show, that not everyone's upset by the news, I'll admit it: I totally am.

Yes, the plotlines have spun completely out of control recently. (Tom hooked up with Kyle and then Kyle got hit by a car and died?? We're in full-on soap opera territory, people.) Yes, Katharine McPhee, though one of the most beautiful people in the world, has about as much charisma as an overripe banana. And yes, somebody, somewhere on the "Smash" staff greenlit Ellis. Oh, man, remember Ellis?

But. BUT. How frequently do you get to see true Broadway-caliber singing and dancing on primetime TV? "Smash" provides a super-high-visibility home for some of our favorite Broadway stars, not least among them Megan Hilty and Christian Borle (and, though his character is totally unlikeable, former Newsies dreamboat Jeremy Jordan). The original songs, most of which are by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman—you know, the team behind a little musical called Hairspray?—are legitimately great. And the dancing! Choreographed by Joshua Bergasse and performed by a rotating cast of crazy-talented people including the likes of Alex Wong, Meredith Miles and Spencer Liff, it's top-notch.

I'll put it this way: If we could cut out the story and condense "Smash"'s musical numbers into a weekly variety show, I'd be totally happy. But that ain't happening, folks. So it's time to say our goodbyes to the little Broadway show that couldn't.

I wanted to let you be my star, "Smash." I really did. *sniff*

I expected the borderline-inappropriate jokes. I expected the appearance by Ted (sighhhhh). I even kind of expected the tribute to boobs on film.

But what I didn't expect from Seth MacFarlane's turn as host of the Academy Awards was a whole bunch of dance numbers. Dance! And here I was thinking the Busby Berkeley-style opening to "Family Guy" was a joke! Who knew that Mr. MacFarlane, the modern master of the fart joke, was a legitimate song-and-dance man?

Anyway, I think I'm not alone in feeling that the dancing elevated what could otherwise have been a very "meh" Oscars show. Let's run down all of the fun dance-y numbers, shall we?

We got off to a strange but, let's be honest, hilarious start with the boobs song. I know, it's terrible and tasteless and everything everyone hates about Seth MacFarlane, but c'mon. It was funny, and not less so thanks to the troupe of tux-clad backup dancers.

Next up, my personal favorite: Charlize Theron (who studied at NYC's Joffrey Ballet School!) and Channing Tatum channeling Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in an elegant foxtrot that was even better for being totally unexpected.

Then we were treated to a cute little softshoe by Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Harry Potter's dance skills could use a little polishing, but points for effort—and Gordon-Levitt looked pretty darn legit. (Remember that time he redid the entire "Make 'Em Laugh" number from Singin' in the Rain on "Saturday Night Live"? I'm striking out in my search for video of the performance, but trust me: It was amazing.)

And then there was that big ol' reworking of "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast. It wasn't the biggest hit of the night, but I'm never really going to knock any production of a classic Disney song. Plus it featured some of DS's fave dancers, including Alex Wong, Spencer Liff, Cody Green and Jaimie Goodwin.

(I can't find any good video of this number, so you'll have to settle for a screenshot from the original instead. Just pretend Lumière is Seth MacFarlane. Not such a stretch, actually.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but certainly not least: Catherine Zeta-Jones and a Fosse chorus in "All That Jazz" from Chicago. Girl's still got it! And it was another chance for our dancer friends to show off a little, too.

My only regret is that Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence didn't get to re-enact their so-bad-it's-awesome dance from Silver Linings Playbook. But I guess the two of them had other things on their minds, what with being nominated for Academy Awards and everything.

(Side note: Jennifer Lawrence. You are amazing. You basically fell on your face last night and it only made everyone, myself included, love you more. I feel like you and Emma Stone and maybe Sandra Bullock should hang out and be awesome and funny and super-stylish together.)

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