If it’s a feel-good dance show you are after, little beats Tap Dogs. Dein Perry’s Australian tap-fest is not subtle, not new, and, in truth, some of the routines lack focus, but the all-boy troupe are so good humored that you overlook any shortcomings. These shouldn’t be over-stated, although it must be said that the six performers are stompers rather than true dancers – their feet work like dervishes, but their upper bodies are awkwardly stiff, unless you count the rippling muscles.
Apart from that, Tap Dogs is a fun show. It features big-scale rock music, work wear-style costumes, and an industrial-style set that’s inspired by Perry’s steel home town in Australia and which the six hunky tappers move around as the show progresses. This provides them with an ever-changing stage, plus lots of scope to show off their muscles, which are very impressive and which prompted appreciative oohs and aahs from the audience.
It was back in 1995 that Perry came up with the idea of a tap show whose look and mood drew on his early career as a steelworks fitter. Born and brought up in an Australian industrial town, Perry mixed his blue collar youth with the dancing he learned as a kid. After stints in Australian musical theatre (he had a long-running part in 42nd Street), he created a small-scale piece that eventually grew into the Tap Dogs we now know.
The award-winning show has evolved, and toured the world, but it remains essentially a series of dance-offs between the men, as well as a tribute to the fast moves and good looks of the Australian working male (the inclusion of two female dancers a couple of years ago was less successful). There are jokes and camaraderie between the performers, plus scenes with water (those with seats in the front row should wear wet weather protection!) and metal grinders where sparks literally fly.
The current cast of six come from America and England as well as Down Under. All are able, although Adam Garcia stands out for his smooth moves and Jesse Rasmussen is a good joker. All of the six are clearly identifiable types, with a small, larky one, an older, wiser one, and a quirky, bashful one. None have the charisma or innovative talent of a tapper like Savion Glover, but he is so rare the comparison is probably a bit unfair. Special mention to the two female drummers who are perched on a platform at the back of the stage. The foxy pair beat their drums like devils while they look sweetly down on the men hoofing below.