The stage is constructed with steel tubes and hand-painted yellow and black striped facades. That diamond-studded sheet metal for lining truck beds serves a dual function – it creates the floor area on stage and surfaces the four-foot tall “TAP” that hangs from the highest point on the scaffolding.
So, it’s new-wave industrial. But as I walk into the Granada Theater to watch “Caution: Men At Work, TAP,” I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen this style of set design before – Disneyland, Great America, Team Roller Blade ’91 World Tour.
Enter the band – guitar, synth, percussion. Lights dim, smoke rises from inside the stage. A ripping electric guitar wails like a bloody, one-on-one combat video game.
The dancers enter in a line. They are wearing blazing orange safety vests with reflective stripes and wield brooms with metal caps on the end. Later, the narrative shifts and the dancers are decked out in bellhop uniforms, military regalia and firemen’s trousers (that’s right girls, firemen’s trousers).
The bellhop routine incorporates hotel lobby service bells played with the feet, while the firefighter routine uses fire extinguishers in both a firing and kicking capacity. Young dancers perform most of the scenes, which adds to the show’s playful tone. The informality is obvious as dancers chat and cheer one another on. For the most part, the dialogue is unnecessary – not over the top, just redundant.
The show runs just short of an hour, and, for the most part, the routines are plot-free. The only clear narrative was a routine featuring Garrett Minniti and Demetria Moss during the bellhop portion of the show.
Moss enters kicking around suitcases. Minniti – obviously an authority figure – follows her on stage waving his arms and correcting her behavior. She offers a wide-eyed expression of confusion. The authority figure does a quick routine and motions for a response. Moss gives him a confused, wide-eyed look again and a slow, methodical response, with widely pendulating arms. Minniti gets flustered and proceeds to give a physically comical instruction on the appropriate way to carry the bags. As he exits, Moss hangs back – as the music goes the funky, powerful, soul route – and she proceeds with a defiant groove routine. She then picks up the bags and proceeds in the stiff manner in which she’d been formerly instructed.
TAP was originally directed by Alfred Desio, an innovator in the tap dance forum. The road show version, however, is choreographed and directed by original cast member Thommie Retter, notable for his work with Carol and Marilyn on “The Mommies.” Under Retter’s direction, the show is less innovative than it is prosaic.
Nevertheless, TAP is a fun show, full of youthful vigor. See it with some friends and get ice cream afterwards.