Year's zippiest variety hour

Waltz over to your TV set and tune in to the freshest, zippiest, most engaging . . . and shortest . . . variety hour of the year. "Baryshnikov on Broadway" (ABC, Thursday, 9-10 p.m., check local listings) is a kind of halfhearted history of the Broadway musical comedy (halfhearted, because some shows were not available, etc.). And it's a guided tour of musical comedy land by an Alice named Liza (Minnelli). She takes Misha (Baryshnikov) through the looking glass into a backstage never-never land where dancers and singers join the incomparable Mikhail insong (yes, he sings a little) and dance. Next to the leaping, whirling, tapping (yes, tap-dancing) Baryshnikov, the charming Liza seems a little awkward in her dancing . . . but who wouldn't? And you have to see and hear Baryshnikov sing and dance "Ain't Misbehavin'" (he pronounces it "aunt" and "hunsuckle rose") with Nell carter to believe it.

There are excerpts from "Oklahoma," "Cabaret," "Fiddler on the Roof," "South Pacific," "Guys and Dolls," and "A Chorus Line," among many other things. The show-stopping numbers come along so frequently that the whole hour zips by before you can stop applauding mentally.

"Baryshnikov on Broadway" is a winner . . . a sure audience winner and an in evitable Emmy winner for the star, Baryshnikov; the choreographer, Ron Field; the producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion; and the writer, Fred Ebb.

Who would ever have thought that Mikhail Baryshnikov would have you tapping your feet as you throw your hat into the air.

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