While teaching music at Knickerbocker University, Phil "Junior" Dolan III tries to persuade Sergei Alexandrovich, the director of the Russian Ballet, to stage the jazz ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue". After becoming involved with the company's prima ballerina, Vera Baranova, Junior is forced to assume the male lead in "Slaughter". Trouble ensues when he becomes the target of two thugs hired by Vera’s lover and dance partner to kill him
The character name Vera Barnova was changed to Vera Baronova for the 1983 revival and the 2013 Encores! production.