Tap Dogs retain their spark

TAP Dogs is an exciting exception to the general rule that long-running stage shows lose their punch as the years go by.

Seventeen years after it premiered in Sydney, the all-danced story of a day on a construction site is more vibrant and dazzling than ever.

The show retains its circular structure, with Sheldon Perry's foreman arriving at the site first and performing a contemplative tap routine. And after the other five workers have gone home he does an elegant slow tap to wind down after the rigours of the working day.

And what breathtaking rigours they are. The dancers tap between the ragged, shark's teeth-like edges of a floor that has been cut in half, ascend steep ramps that then become vertical ladders and make their way through the fiery sparks of grinders.

The work routines are interspersed with playful activities during their breaks. Jesse Rasmussen's cheeky Rat taps while bouncing a basketball in and around his legs, then his workmates take up the challenge, with all six showing remarkable co-ordination of feet and ball movements.

The performers, who include Nathaniel Hancock's apprentice Kid, Anthony Russo's 2IC, Matt Papa's Enforcer, and Richie Miller's Funky, bring out the characters suggested by their nicknames.

As in previous stagings of the show, a sequence in which the foreman mentors the apprentice has a grace and gentle humour that makes it a highlight. And a water dance, where the sextet splash their way through a water-filled metal tray, gives a new meaning to the term water drum as musicians Lyndsay Evans and Alysa Portelli perform behind the dancers.

Tap Dogs' creator Dein Perry's choreography is awesome, and the production team - director-designer Nigel Triffitt, composer Andrew Wilkie, lighting designer Gavin Norris, sound designer Andy Jackson and music producer Laurence Maddy - produce stunning effects, as in a scene where the dancers are silhouetted against a glowing background as they make their way through smoke.

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