Review by Marilyn Lester
Tap dance, the uniquely American staple of the dancers’ craft, is not only alive and well, but brilliantly thriving. In “On Tap,” a delightful song and dance show (third in a yearly series of tributes to precision dancing and the Rockettes), the youthful talent on display proved there will be no dearth of tappers any time soon. The seasoned pros sharing the same stage artfully demonstrated why tap, and precision dance, continue to flourish.
“On Tap” opened with the 23 shining singers and dancers from Western Carolina University with a number appropriately dubbed “Tap Class – Fabulous Feet.” These talented students (under the direction of instructor and mentor, Karen Tomczak, also a co-producer of the show), showcased their various abilities intermittently during the evening with a “Singin’ In the Rain” medley, as penguins from the movie “Happy Feet” (yes they were in full penguin costume), “We’re In the Money,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” – with former June Taylor and Broadway dancer and choreographer, Mercedes Ellington.
Guest star Ellington spoke with humor and charm about her experiences with June Taylor, tap and the value of dancers. Her insights supplemented the evening’s well-researched presentation of tap dance on the silver screen. In a narrative enthusiastically delivered by moderator, Mary Six Rupert, and through projected images, the careers of luminaries such as Busby Berkeley, Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, the Nicholas brothers, Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers and Ann Miller were well-highlighted, with dance numbers matched to the informative and educational text.
Tomczak and Rupert are co-founders of the Legacy Dancers, a line of former Rockettes. These troupers performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,””New York, New York,” and the “Audition Number” from the musical, “42nd Street.” Both founders are dancers in the troupe, who killed it with their legendary precision, high kicks and the sheer wow-factor of The Line. Guest star Lee Roy Reams, who starred in the original Broadway mounting of “42nd Street,” reminisced about the show and sang, as he aptly put it, the anthem of the Great White Way: “Lullaby of Broadway.” Effortlessly reaching the high notes, Reams proudly noted, “sung in the original key.”
Legacy twins, Kimberly and Katherine Corp danced “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” as well as “Fascinating Rhythm (with Tomlee Abraham). Legacy dancers Brittany Cataruzza and Mary Six Rupert offered “My One and Only.” Promising young talent was also on display with students from The American Tap Dance Foundation performing “Cute,” and a modern-day Shirley Temple in Katherine Naronis from American Theater Dance Workshop, mastering the steps to “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” The entire company was on hand for the rousing, energetic, tap-tap-tapping finale of “Dames at Sea.”
“On Tap,” was conceived, co-produced, directed and choreographed by Tomczak and Rupert (presented by Legacy 36, LLC in association with the Ziegfeld Society). This enormous undertaking, with its high production values, flowed seemingly without effort. Music was taped, but was consistently in sync with both dancing and singing. The choreography was often inventive, especially satisfying in Legacy Dancers routines, and smartly executed for students who naturally have a range of aptitude, allowing each dancer to shine in a positive light.
Costuming receives an A-plus-plus. Each number had its own costuming, executed with skill and professionalism. For this, a huge tip of the straw hat and tap of the cane to Tomczak, Anthony Sirk, Susan Brown-Strauss, and Alan Smith. Applause for expert Stage Management of this complex show to Cory Phelps.
On Tap: From Broadway to the Silver Screen, March 14, 2015 at 6 pm