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BWW Review: Show-Stopping, Explosive Tap Numbers, And The Feeling Of Having A Beer With Friends Make Up TAPDOGS at Straz Center For The Performing Arts

BWW Review: Show-Stopping, Explosive Tap Numbers, And The Feeling Of Having A Beer With Friends Make Up TAPDOGS at Straz Center For The Performing Arts

What happens when you combine six guys who look like every-day average men, close to over 40+ years of dance training and performance, two incredible musicians, and a whole lot of moving parts and set pieces? That is the experience and feelings the audience embraced Friday night as TapDogs took Morsani Hall at the Straz center by storm, and leaving nothing in their wake. 31 incredibly powerful dance numbers and one exciting encore made this evening of tap truly exceptional.

From the moment the lights dimmed on Morsani Hall the overture exploded on stage with the powerful movements of the evening's Foreman Anthony Russo. In a unique turn, Anthony used a flashlight, tapped in the dark, and brought this world we would come to know for the next 90 exhilarating minutes to life. Donned in a pair of jeans and a mechanic's shirt he looked like any other "average joe." When the other five men joined Anthony on stage the audience was swept away with a feeling of guys getting together and embracing their love of movement. It was like coming together with your best friends for a weekend of precise movement that was fun at the same time, and these guys seemed like the family we've always wanted. At one point when the guys were seen dancing behind a wall, similar to if five guys were dancing behind a bathroom stall; each dropping to the floor at individual times, the precision was breathtaking. Their fully synchronized movements were thrilling to watch and they never missed a beat. Full of comedy including a bit to look like someone was going to bathroom and then the guys danced in it, this band of brothers were fully into every minute of their performance.

One thing to note in tap like anything the different steps and movements can change the effect during the number, whether that is rhythm or pitch every slight movement is affected. During the individual solos we witness that different areas of the stage allow for different resonance and pitch. Some higher, some lower, but in the end each lending its own flair to move the story along. During the individual solos we got to see each dancer's unique personalities. 2IC danced exceptionally well by Nathaniel Hancock showed his leadership when the Foreman wasn't around. Richie Miller's Enforcer was the one to watch, with power and grace his feet moving like lightning across the stage made every movement so powerful. Chaise Rossiello played the part of Funky really well. He was hilarious in his movements and could always be seen as the life of the party. The Rat played by Justin Myles always seemed to be the instigator, and was the one everyone turned to when something went array and I always watched to see what would happen next. Reid Perry played the Kid with exceptional grandeur. There was a poignant moment in the show in which he was dancing with the Foreman and it seemed as though a master was training an apprentice and their movements together were mesmerizing. Reid is also the son of the shows creator Dein Perry, and he began learning and honing his craft through TapPups when he was a young child. Playing these roles were truly a personality all in their own, and each guy fit them to a T. This production moved like a well-oiled machine with no broken parts.

After introductions were made and we truly understood the players in the night's events, a drop curtain from upstage center revealed a band of musicians led by two very powerful women. Noriko Terada and Caitlin Kalafus provided the rhythm section to accompany these men on their journey and ever important they became. The set unfolded on itself and with the use of steel beams and cables the growth of a construction site happened before our eyes. As the story progressed the set grew higher and higher. All five men climbed to different heights and each danced on different levels of incline with such technique and precision. Both defying the law of gravity and our very eyes, the story was told explicitly through the movement with a few shouts or laughter in between. Much to the tune of Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel's Moving Out this spectacle of dance had heart and story that had the audience on the edge of their seats.

Ever wondered what would happen if you played basketball and tap-danced at the same time? Imagine standing on stage alone and dribbling and in between the impact of the ball to the floor you tapped your toes or stomped your feet creating your own unique rhythm. Now imagine doing so with five other people. Basketballs were dropped in from the ceiling and we immediately had a six man tapping basketball team. The two stage hands moved six sound pads of similar sizes across the stage, and when the dancers stepped onto them they each made their own unique sounds. They made their own unique rhythm band and it was the coolest effect. The flashlight strobe effect having each guy with a flashlight turning them on and off at varying intervals made for a cool effect, and the guy's did so while tapping the entire time. Bringing in audience involvement the men on stage got everyone in the crowd to snap their fingers right along with them. This was a really cool effect and was reminiscent of a Jazz Club back in the era of La La Land and the rise of the Jazz age. I felt like I was in a dark club with an exceptional cocktail and a good feeling spun about the room.

Once again defying the laws of gravity we see a dancer donning a rigging that could only mean one thing, he was going somewhere off the ground. I thought he was going to be lifted up to tap by the band up above. Well a few seconds later I realized I was half right. Going completely head over heels the dancer was positioned upside down on the ceiling of their set and was soon tapping completely upside down, and mind-blowing was truly an understatement. Through the use of projections and smoke, the set evolved into a bridge like structure combining the use of cables and beams, and I was suddenly thrust into the big city. Inverted ramps in an X formation made it seem as if they were dancing on steel beams in a construction yard. Making up the sides of the set were numerous ladders in which the men would tap on the rungs and even slide down them in varying intervals creating unique sounds. Using power tools to create the look and feel of a construction site and the live sparks made this production explosive and full of fire and it was a stunning sight to uphold and one I couldn't peel my eyes away from. The final moments in the show involved the men building scaffolding on stage... and with the use of water created a really unique experience. As a few of the men were dancing on the scaffolding the others would dump buckets of water below their feet and even poured buckets of water over the dancers making for an incredible splash of entertainment and an amazing way to close down the evening. The combination of the water and the headlamps was reminiscent of a construction site in the rain and it was a really awesome spectacle.

If ever there was an explosive, high flying and truly exceptional evening of movement, story, and heart TapDogs is the ticket. From a powerful cast, band, and crew, this show is truly exceptional and one not to be missed. At the end of the day it's about doing what you love, and loving who you are with, and coming together to tell one powerful story. So grab a group of friends, create an evening no one will soon forget, because friends and family are everything. Who knows maybe just like a family reunion you'll find those friends and crack open a beer or two.

Photo Credit: The Straz Center

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From This Author Drew Eberhard