How come a concert pianist is singing, tap dancing and acting - even
appearing as a "Star Trek" alien?
For Peter Slutsker, the answer's easy: He went to see the
Broadway musical "42nd Street" on opening night. "I was
blown away," he said over the phone from New York this week.
Slutsker was 22 years old at the time, and hadn't given any thought to
acting or dancing. He'd earned his music degree from the University of
But all those Broadway hoofers captivated him.
"I got a piece of plywood to practice on in my apartment,"
he recalled, "4-by-7, a half-inch thick. My wife, Barbara
Hoon, is a dancer, and was in Twyla Tharp's company for
many years. You can't play Chopin on the piano without learning
scales, and you can't learn dancing without learning ballet,
so I studied ballet and tap dancing."
Slutsker is quick to downplay his dancing abilities, though.
"I dance a lot, but I consider myself an actor. I don't
consider myself a singer or dancer. I'm a terrific tap dancer,
but I'm not a Baryshnikov."
Slutsker honed his acting skills at the Neighborhood Playhouse,
and soon was very busy. "I was on the national tour of
`Tintypes' with Patrice Munsel, and I was in `Singin' in
the Rain' on Broadway for a year and a half. I was the composer
in `Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' in `On Your Toes,' " he said.
Slutsker, who will be performing with Peter Nero and the
Tulsa Philharmonic this weekend, first met the Grammy Award-winning
pianist and composer when Slutsker was with the Manhattan
Rhythm Kings. That ensemble appeared along with dancer Tommy
Tune in a concert with the Philly Pops in Philadelphia,
another orchestra Nero leads.
Subsequently, another Philly Pops guest artist unexpectedly
canceled, and Nero invited Slutsker back for a solo appearance,
in a salute to Hollywood's 100th birthday.
Slutsker will offer up something similar for Tulsa's concert,
billed as "Hooray for Hollywood."
He'll do salutes to Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, among other
segments, as well as a salute to George M. Cohan. "Actually,
not Cohan, but James Cagney as Cohan," he explained. "That's
the hardest one I do."
As for Nero, he said the problem he faced in preparing the
program "was not what to include, but what to leave out."
Talking over the phone from his Pennsylvania home, Nero
said, "We could do 20 to 30 shows."
Nero said he's tried to select music that will present a
proper balance. "That's always my primary concern, if it
hangs together as a concert. To hell with titles."
Besides his musical engagements, Slutsker has stayed busy
on television, appearing in numerous soap operas.
He will also be in a pilot of Stephen Bochco's latest TV