The 1990s were a percussive decade. New York brought in ’da Noise and ’da Funk and Stomped even as the Blue Men thrumbed their melodic PVC tubes. Meanwhile, in Australia, steel fitter turned dance phenom Dein Perry unleashed his Tap Dogs.
Almost a quarter-century later, the boot-clad lads from Down Under have come to mark their territory once more in D.C.
This ain’t no Fred and Ginger stuff. A half dozen burly blokes in construction and street clothes tap up a storm while spraying each other with sparks and water, perching upon narrow rising steel beams, playing with balls in group rhythm, and strapping themselves in harness to fly upside down while dancing on the ceiling. You don’t need your Pocket Guide to Freud to feel the homoerotische Unterströmung beneath the camaraderie. With pee and smelly boot and armpit gags, the flood of testosterone carries a thrilled audience happily downstream for a 90-minute manly steel-tipped jamboree.
Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs
closes February 24, 2019
Details and tickets
For these are not just overgrown boy-men goofin’ on each other—although they are surely that. They are also friggin’ unbelievable tappers whose precise unisons, inspired solos, and athleticism over a grueling 90-minute intermissionless performance will bowl you over.
There’s no plot and no dialogue, but you’ll see a fair amount of characterization all the same on a set inspired by director Perry’s teen years working as a union machinist in Newcastle, a steel town north of Sydney. A fatherly foreman, Anthony Russo, presides over a spry striving Nathaniel Hancock, a suave but surly Richie Miller, a cheeky cutup Chaise Rossiello, a mischievous Justin Myles, and an eager up-and-comer Reid Perry, “the Kid,” who is also the kid of the director and happens to be on his first world tour. (The production’s two other tappers, Nathan Beech and Sam Marks, weren’t in the Friday performance reviewed here.)
Mic’d wooden and metal platforms, along with beams and ramps, are the gents’ inventive playground. Drum-synth, delay, and other audio filters from sound designer Andy Jackson enhance the tomfoolery as do Gavin Norris’s bold lighting and projections. Recorded rock and electronica tracks by Andrew Wilkie are complemented by live tom-pulsing, bongo-buoyed percussion from Caitlin Kalafus and Noriko Terada.
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I didn’t have a favorite sequence because I enjoyed them all: the basketball boogie, the calls and responses, the ramp ballets, the rhythmic torch accompaniment like steel-work fireworks to Russo’s sonic star dance, the splashy waterworks and rubber-boot soft shoe, the sly sloshing slow-tap wind down. A small part of a solo by Hancock went un-mic’d downstage right and I think a floor light came on late for Kalafus’s tom. Given the eight million things that could have gone wrong and didn’t, I still give tech an A-plus.
One may have to resort to Aussie slang to describe the full fun of the affair. (I’m sure I can count on my Australian pals to explain to me just how horribly I’m about to screw this up.) Good on ya, Dogs, sweating through all that hard yakka, with your drongo antics and larrikin foolishness. This show was a ripper!
Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs at the Eisenhower Theater of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, through February 24. Starring Anthony Russo, Nathaniel Hancock, Richie Miller, Chaise Rossiello, Justin Myles, Reid Perry, Nathan Beech, and Sam Marks. Created, directed, and choreographed by Dein Perry. Lighting design by Gavin Norris. Sound design by Andy Jackson. Music by Andrew Wilkie. Music production, engineering, and additional orchestration by Laurence Maddy. Percussion by Caitlin Kalafus and Noriko Terada. Musical director, Joe Accaria. Original director, Nigel Triffitt. Reviewed by Alexander C. Kafka.
Susan Galbraith says
And good on ya, dog! What a fabulous review. I can feel the steel rat-a-tat-tat and the testosterone- filled evening. About time someone allowed some good men to be unleashed and be — well, men.
Maybe that’s what the world has been needing — not more love but more pounding tapping!