One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “If I wanted to hear the patter of little feet, I’d put shoes on my cat!” Broadway Series South patrons who buy tickets to the crackerjack Columbia Artists Theatricals production of Tap Dogs, playing tonight (March 16th) at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, NC, will hear the thunder of great, big, manly feet encased in Blundstone® work shoes with big metal taps on their soles.
This sensational one-of-a-kind tap-dance extravaganza, created by Australian choreographer Dein Perry and directed and designed by fellow Aussie Nigel Trifflitt, is a brilliantly original piece of work and the best testimony to the imagination and creativity of both men. Tap Dogs nightly showcases the talents of six of eight peerless tap-dancers — Joshua Allan Cyr, Ryan Gravelle, Donovan Helma, Sheldon Perry, Anthony Russo, Matt Saffron, Tim Varney, and Danny Wallace — who trip the light fantastic in work clothes in a marathon performance on an awesome fold-up set that unfolds in stages during the evening to provide a challenging variety of metal, plastic, and wooden dancing surfaces in various clever configurations.
There is a blue-collar, industrial ambience about Tap Dogs, which is brilliantly lit by lighting designer Galvin Norris; and these hunky hard-working dancers with attitude tap their hearts out for 80 minutes during this singular show, which also features the on-stage percussion pyrotechnics of Brad “Gorilla” Carbone. These terrific tap-dancers perform in tandem, they perform electrifying solos, and one bold soul even tap-dances upside-down while suspended in a rope harness. They perform a locomotive sequence, a basketball sequence, and a water sequence, slipping rubber boots over their dancing shoes as they stomp out an infectious rhythm in a shallow tray of water. (Warning: You don’t want to sit too close to the stage unless you are wearing rain gear.)
There is a ladder sequence that must be seen to be believed, and sparks literally fly during a welding sequence in which one brave dancer wearing safety glasses solos amidst a shower of sparks thrown off by welding machinery.
There is no dialogue and no plot, as such, in Tap Dogs; but the six plucky lads who performed at a private show last night definitely established crowd-pleasing individual identities as they cut the fool and joshed each other in-between dance sequences.
Tap Dogs combines the razzle-dazzle of Riverdance with the grungy work-site atmosphere of Stomp. This unique show demonstration of the infinite variety of tap-dancing routines earned an especially hearty standing ovation last night. Don’t miss it!
Broadway Series South presents Tap Dogs Thursday, March 16, at 8 p.m. in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $26-$31. Progress Energy Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/. Tap Dogs: http://www.tapdogs.co.uk/. OffBroadway.com: http://www.lortel.org/.