“They are a sort of champagne cup of motion, those Astaires. They live, laugh and leap in a world that is all bubbles.” So wrote the New York Sun in 1927, reviewing Funny Face, a hit stage musical starring Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele. Fred continues to be acclaimed as one of the greatest dancers who ever lived, especially for his magnificent 1930s screen partnership with Ginger Rogers, but throughout the 1920s Fred and his elder sister, Adele, were the toast of the transatlantic musical stage. Indeed, during the Astaires’ almost three decades of theatrical collaboration, it was Adele who was routinely viewed as the bigger star and the greater talent. It is hard to believe that Kathleen Riley’s The Astaires is the first full-length study of the celebrated partnership that so defined 20th-century musical comedy. As Riley argues, the pairing of Astaire and Rogers was only made possible by Fred’s prior, and formative, collaboration with Adele.
more from Kathleen Riley at The New Statesman here.