NAPLES — Six guys. Twelve boots. Twenty-four metal taps. Eighty minutes of astounding, mind-blowing, kick up your heels, throw your hands in the air and dance in the aisles tap-dancing joy that borders on exuberant ecstasy. These are the "Tap Dogs." They move their feet. And your soul.
Exhibitions of wild artistic talent translated to the stage and re-branded as a "show" abound. "Blast" showcases a drum corps. "Stomp" excites with pure, throbbing percussion. Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Dreams romanticize acrobatics. "Come Fly Away" melds dance and Sinatra. "Tap Dogs" wows with tap dancing.
Correction. It doesn't just wow. It explodes off the stage.
The show features a seemingly infinite variety of tap routines built on, around, in, above and below a construction site set. The boys dance on steel, on stage, on wood, on special pads that are tuned to different drum beats and even upside down. They tap on ladders and amid a shower of sparks from angle grinders. They even tap on water. Yep, Jesus was probably a tap dancer in his copious spare time. If you're curious, the boys use specially fitted Blundstone work boots, manufactured for the show by the original Australian company.
"Tap Dogs" goes from perfect to powerful to passionate during its show. But never predictable. And certainly never peaceful.
Can you dribble a basketball? Now, imagine tapping and dribbling a basketball in perfect time? Bounce, tap, tap. Bounce, tap, tap. Multiply that by six - and bring down the house. Add a choreographed passing routine, with six basketballs flying about the stage, tap shoes hitting in perfect time and the performers adding flair by clicking their heels. I want to see the Globetrotters do that!
The show varies pace by giving performers a spotlight to showcase their talents (and the others a chance to rest from the non-stop exertion). Tough-tapping foreman Anthony Russo teaches new kid Dominic Mortezadeh a routine while they're both seated - before the pair burst into a looping, soaring display of brilliance with the stage awash in red and purple lights.
Nigel Triffitt's industrial set continually unwinds offer new playgrounds for the boys to tap on. A platform splits apart - giving them both a maze and islands to hop back and forth. Beneath that, six steel beams lift up on ropes as the tappers race upward, tapping, banging, clanking in joyful unison. Sparks fly as an electric routine lifts off between a quartet of welders.
Then there was the water. The two rows of exclusive seating directly in front of the stage usually offer up close and personal views of the performers. This time, it meant a shower - much to the chagrin of the well-heeled Neapolitans sitting there.
After the boys peel back the set, a scaffold appears. They tap up. They tap down. Ramps. Boards. Pans. And buckets of water. The crowd gets quiet. Four boys. Rubber boots. With taps. Jump. Splash. Tappity tap tap tap. Splash splash splash. Tappity tap tap tap. Splash splash splash. Tap. Tap. Tap.
Someone runs in to "mop" up the water. One wild swing, and the mop head goes flying off into the crowd. Everyone else roars, but the unfortunate patron who got hit with a wet and dirty mop wags her finger at the Tap Dogs. They respond by tapping a few more splashes of water into the crowd. Roars. Absolute roars. And the boys tap off into the night, splashing all the way.
Full Disclosure: Naples Daily News publisher Dave Neill is a member of the board of directors of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.
Never sit in the front row when you don't know what's going to happen. Email me, email@example.com. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.