A power-packed tapping treatLesley Stones
Lesley Stones: The hottest bodies in town are flashing their gorgeous legs and sexy torsos for our delectation at the Joburg Theatre
And the female dancers are pretty hot too. Ok, that’s an old joke, but in a way in Strictly Tap Dance Fever is an old show.
It’s not been doing the rounds for long, but most of the music harks back to the days of Fred Astaire, the Second World War and swing, jazz, jive and rock ‘n roll.
From the first few minutes I watched with delight, thinking this is everything that Riverdance isn’t. It’s hot and sexy, funny and sophisticated, noisy and exuberant, with bright costumes and even brighter smiles.
There’s no plot or narrative, just a series of scenes designed to showcase some brilliant dancing. It’s candyfloss for the brain, but you really have to be a curmudgeonly character not to find it entertaining.
The stage set features a railway bridge creating tiered levels to perform on, adding height as well as depth. It adds different sounds too, with two of the men giving dazzling solo performances using the metal bridge for percussion. We’ve all seen tap dancing before, yet you watch their shoes in amazement as so many simultaneous noises burst from just one pair of feet.
The British crew fields 12 dancers and three singer/dancers, Simon Schofield, Jon Hawkins and Lara Denning. Denning is the star of the trio with a powerful voice that matches her powerful legs. They’ve recruited Amore Vittone as the local guest star, marking her return to the stage after an absence of around a decade. Vittone is a lightweight compared to the more accomplished Denning, and doesn't entirely blend in, but she proves she’s still got what it takes.
The singers perform to a backing track and almost everything is acoustically perfect. The lighting designed by Simon Lord also works beautifully, flicking around to highlight someone doing something special in a corner while your main focus is centre stage.
The problem with a pure dance show is that it risks growing repetitive. While Strictly Tap Dance Fever is a fun display of slick showmanship, it lacks the wit and wacky inventiveness of rival shows like Stomp and Tap Dogs.
So we get ancient songs like Minnie The Moocher and Candyman. “Can you only tap dance to music from the 50s?” my escort whispered irreverently. No, you can do it a cappella too, if that’s what you call tapping without music.
I’d love to see them tackle something brash and modern to really stretch themselves and the skills of choreographer Emma Rogers. Yet as my non-dancing escort declared, much to his dismay he wasn’t hating it. A compliment indeed.
Strictly Tap Dance Fever runs at the Joburg Theatre until March 6.
Lesley Stones is a former Brit who is now proudly South African.
She started her career by reviewing rock bands for a national UK music paper, then worked for various newspapers before spending four fun-filled years in Cairo, where she ended up editing a technology magazine.
Lesley was the Information Technology Editor for Business Day for 12 years before quitting to go freelance, specialising in travel & leisure writing and being opinionated about life in general. Her absolute passions are travel, theatre, the cinema, wining and dining.
Web site: http://www.lesleystones.co.za
Joburg Theatre Complex, Loveday Street Braamfontein Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa