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How Concert Pianist Becomes an Alien On TV's `Star Trek'
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How Concert Pianist Becomes an Alien On TV's `Star Trek'

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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

Michigan.

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

series idea, "Cop Rock." "It's basically a `Hill Street

Blues' with Randy Newman music," said Slutsker.

And he's already finished shooting a guest appearance for

TV's "Star Trek: The Next Generation," scheduled to air May 28.

"I play an alien and I'm unrecognizable," he said. "Three

hours of makeup."

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