Dein Perry and his Newcastle mates were onto a good thing 10 years ago when they created a fantastic show about blokes in boots and flannel shirts tapping out a working man’s beat.
Since that modest Sydney premiere, at times four different companies of Tap Dogs have been touring this very Aussie show from Asia to Europe to America.
Australian circus and physical theatre are always good exports but Tap Dogs is the major money spinner. Plus there were the film, the Olympics opening and the many international choreographic awards for Perry.
Now the blokey tap dancers are doing a 10th anniversary tour of Australia. Tapping on metal bleachers, on diagonal drawbridges and even upside down, tapping through the sparks of metal grinders and splashing in water, they still grunt in mock pain and do a lot of droll dishing and blokey tricks on each other.
But it is all as polished as a diamond in this superb, even overly produced spectacle from the director who fashioned the original, Nigel Triffitt.
For me, in the huge grand State Theatre, the sexy raw originality of the show was lost, too distant and too over-pumped with the volume of its percussive music.
From the back dress circle you need opera glasses to see whether they’re cute or not. Pity they couldn’t lure this mass, and mostly appreciative, audience into somewhere more fitting like the Eveleigh railway yards.
All but one of the Dogs has been with the show since the early years and a chunk of the seven were picked up in London and America.
The newcomer Tap Dog is lanky 18-year-old Mitchell Hicks whose charismatic virtuosity matches his cheeky charm.
The sequence of the old dog, Perry, teaching the younger, Hicks, is still after 10 years one of the best and more lyrical moments of the show. Another is Perry tapping out the spluttering attempts to start a lawnmower.
Triffitt expertly paces the show from solos crafted on each very individual dancer to the full orchestra crescendo of leaping showmanship.
It was a groundbreaking show, an idea born out of Perry’s work a long time ago in the BHP steelworks, and whose spirit lives on in other working-class dance celebrations like Billy Elliot and The Full Monty. It’s just a shame you don’t smell the sweat any more.
Tap Dogs is on at Sydney’s State Theatre until 15 May.