GIRLS ON TAP
GIRLS ON TAP, Tenacious C Productions and Glen Street at Glen Street Theatre, 14-16 February 2019. Photography by Karen Watson
First there was Dein Perry and Tap Dogs, then there was more Tap Dogs, and even more Tap Dogs. Later there was Boot Men – all tapping, all conquering and...all boys. Even way back when there was the man – Fred Astaire. Yet as someone said, “Sure, Astaire was great, but don't forget – Ginger Rogers did everything he did – backwards and in high heels.”
And that’s where Sally Dashwood comes in. Dashwood is a dancer whose work on stage is being overtaken by the demand for her skills as a choreographer and director: most recently La Boheme and Two Weddings, One Bride for Opera Australia. Through her time in theatres and on sets she says, “I often see young girls being taught that what they have to offer most above all else is their bodies...
And that’s where the inspiration for Girls On Tap comes from: how it was back in Ginger’s day. And Cyd Charisse too, whose fabled Singin’ In The Rain dance with Gene Kelly is echoed early in the show to illustrate where women were in the 1950s (doing it all, but backwards and in high heels!)
Dashwood and husband and director Tim have created a sophisticated drama-tap dance-comedy show that does for girls what Tap Dogs did for boys: the sky’s the limit just as long as you tie your shoes laces tight and practice, practice, practice.
The first version of the show was a smash hit at the Glen Street event, Cabaret In The Glen. Its producer (and – disclosure – my friend and collaborator) Catherine Alcorn saw the potential in the production and this is the result: five women who “crash through stereotypes, challenge expectations and stamp out inequality with exceptional rhythm!”
And that they do. The troupe of five – Ariana Mazzeo, Ash Power, Liz Evans, Siobhan Parker and Dashwood herself – are not only skilled and exhaustingly energetic tap dancers, but also sing and deliver the punch lines too. The musical numbers range across Broadway, rock and pop to tell a story of women doing it for themselves.
Part of the telling is taken on by onstage drummer Stef Furnari. She is a powerhouse presence and one of the most exciting moments is when she and the dancers perform a drummed and tapped call-and-response sequence. she also raps with the dancers and her drums – more of that please.
Aside from the (very) live drums, music has been bower-birded from many sources and produced by Sean Peter. The set design by Hayes Theatre Co luminary Lauren Peters makes a much more theatrical environment for the five dames in loud shoes, while Trent Suidgeest lights the small epic with the flair we’ve come to expect from such hits as Muriel’s Wedding and Calamity Jane. In other words: this show is peak calibre all round.
Girls On Tap is high energy, colourful, funny, dramatic, exciting and also – for girls of all ages who’ve enjoyed the Billy Elliot thing but nevertheless felt left out – empowering, inspiring and life-changing. The second season at Glen Street sold out as fast as the first. Girls on Tap will be coming to a theatre near you in the near future – grab your girls (and boys) and bandy twist back to the future.