To understand the impact of the Nicholas Brothers one only needs to watch “Be a Clown” performed with Gene Kelly in 1948’s “The Pirate.”
Those lives filled with talent, fame and grace is being celebrated at the Alex Theatre this Sunday at 7:30 p.m. There will be a show of clips in chronological order of their lives that include never-before-seen home movie footage and movie trailers. Guests like Debbie Allen, via video message, will talk about how these two men inspired them.
The brothers’ performance in “The Pirate” may not be as dazzling as their dance in “Stormy Weather” or show off their singing talents like “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” which they performed with Dorothy Dandridge, but it highlights their ability to make the most difficult choreography look simple and graceful. Holding their own with stars like Kelly and even Michael Jackson seemed easy for these two brothers.
Harold and Fayard Nicholas created their style of tap dancing that was athletic and graceful, not an easy combination. In 1931 they debuted at the Standard in New York, where they performed on film for the first time in 1932. Fayard, then 17 years old and Harold, 11, began working at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.
They were then found by Hollywood, and later Broadway, and never turned back. In 2002, the duo was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, audiences can learn more about the brothers, their lives and those who they influenced.
“I am a life-long Nicholas Brothers fan,” said Tegan Summer, who is on the board of directors for both the Alex Theatre and Hollywood Heritage and CEO of Prospect House Entertainment.
Summer, a former dancer and performer, met Fayard’s son Tony at an event he was attending. He soon discovered a treasure of photos, film and Fayard’s Tony Award and spent the next six months archiving what was there.
Summer then built a show around the items he found and will share them with the Alex Theatre. The night will be a star-studded evening that will feature Q&As with Nicholas family members, celebrity friends and co-stars. Live stage performances will include a dance by the Nicholas sisters, Cathie and Nicole, Fayard’s granddaughters who, with the help of technology, will perform with their grandfather and uncle.
The event is choreographed by Cathie Nicholas, and written and directed by Summer.
Hosted by Emmy Award winner Stan Taffel, the gala evening’s special guests, in addition to Nicholas family members, include Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura in the “Star Trek” television series), Gloria Hendry (Rosie Carver in the Roger Moore James Bond classic “Live and Let Die”), band leader and tap dancer Chester Whitmore, tap dancer, choreographer, and director Jason Samuels Smith and dancer Desmond Richardson.
Tickets for this one night only event range in price from $20 to $25 each. Tickets are available by calling (818) 243-ALEX (2539) or by visiting AlexTheatre.org. CV Weekly readers can buy one ticket and get one free when entering promo code PHENich.