cover story: Hot Dogs hit Jupiters – boots and all.............
TAP Dogs has clattered its way around the world numerous times since reigniting the art of tap dance in 1995, its troupe of rubber-limbed performers delighting more than 11 million people in 37 countries.
But the show’s founder, Dein Perry, says a menacing Celtic jig almost proved an early undoing for the global dance phenomenon when a first and only trip to Ireland was far from lucky.
Success eventually saw the live spectacular catapulted from the Sydney Festival to London’s West End and Broadway in just two years, but not before a near crippling run in Dublin saw it trounced by Michael Flatley’s Riverdance.
‘‘It was just before we were offered Lyric Theatre in the West End and we needed to build up a reputation in the outskirts first,’’ Perry says.
‘‘We thought we’d be smart and skip over to Ireland but we found ourselves going up against Riverdance, which had just taken off – six guys tap-dancing against about 40 or 50 Irish dancers who had just exploded on the scene. ‘‘It was dreadful. We were left playing to empty theatres because people there just weren’t interested.’’
The lows are ancient history now as Tap Dogs prepares for its first Gold Coast season – an eight-week run in Jupiters Theatre from Saturday night.
The energetic show sees six guys tap-dancing on a steely industrial setting – their boots doing all the talking.
‘‘We really put it together because there was no avenue or no shows that you could get employed in as a tap dancer,’’ Perry says.
‘‘Little did we know we’d be able to develop it into a fullfledged show.’’
Before long, Perry and his five founding Tap Dogs were appearing on The Jay Leno Show and embarking on worldwide tours, playing to thousands of fans in theatres and later stadiums.
Perry has since won an Olivier Award for his choreography and is enjoying the show’s latest popularity surge around the world. But it hasn’t always been easy managing Australia’s longest-running performance export, with the standard employer challenges of sick days and recruitment causing the biggest headaches.
‘‘It can happen where someone will audition for you and you’ll think they’re fantastic and then a week into rehearsals you realise they’re just not going to get it,’’ Perry says.
Copy-cat productions are also a problem but despite a string of shows which have cropped up impersonating Tap Dogs, Perry is adamant he always attracts the best tap dancers in the world. And he believes the global success of the brand he personally dreamt up from home in Newcastle is driven from a purely Australian formula.
‘‘It’s all about the knock-about larrikinism of the guys on stage – just every-day blokes who you wouldn’t think as tap dancers,’’ he says.
‘‘That’s the key to the show because every guy in the audience thinks, ‘He’s just like me, I should be able to do that too’.’’
Tap Dogs opens in Jupiters Theatre on Saturday and plays Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, with matinees Wednesdays at 1pm, Saturdays at 3pm and Sundays at 4pm.
The stars of Tap Dogs (above) at Kurrawa Beach and (left) creator and choreographer Dein Perry.