Review by Josie Montano & Robert McLachlan
The Savoyards Musical Comedy Society proudly took on an extremely ambitious musical theatre giant. Hot Shoe Shuffle is not performed in Community Theatre very often, and it’s clear why. Scouring the theatre and dance class corridors for eight men who can tap dance (and really tap dance!) and a triple threat actress to play the lead female wasn’t an easy feat. But what a way to help this enduring community not only come out of covid shut down but to celebrate their 60th year!
The original musical based on a book written by Larry Buttrose and Kathryn Riding, was produced firstly in 1992 by Australia’s own song and dance man, David Atkins. Such a success, the show was then taken to West End two years later, and being one of Australia’s most popular musicals it is not surprising that the show was resurrected again in 2002 and 2013 with rave reviews.
Hot Shoe Shuffle delightfully unfolds in two acts, and tells the story of seven brothers (the TAPS – Spring, Slap, Buck, Wing, Tip, Tap and Slide, and yes they all live up to their names). The siblings are informed of their absent father’s death and the supposed fortune left behind for them. Yet there are conditions in order to receive their inheritance, they must perform his legendary act, the Hot Shoe Shuffle. There’s more … they must also incorporate a stranger into their act, their long-lost sister April. Max arrives, a friend of their father who proceeds to help the Taps to put on the show. We won’t divulge any more spoilers, other than to say that there’s a nice twist in the plot and a few entertaining revelations.
Director Johanna Toia took on the mammoth task of finding the talented cast for this Australian musical classic. She has done an amazing job of bringing together the talent and coordinating the show to present an entertaining night with some dazzling dance moves. Cast includes Reindert Toia in the pivotal role of Spring. He brought the character to life and also added his considerable dance talents, highly visible in the “Song and Dance Man” number where he sings, dances and does a handy little soft shoe. The difficult role of April is played by Natalie Lennox, who sings, dances, and acts her way through an enormous parade of numbers throughout the show. Special mention here to the Fats Waller Medley which shows off her considerable talents. I also want to mention the charismatic Chris Jordan playing Slide in the show. His talents as a tap dancer and character actor really come through in this show even with so many other talented players.
This production was choreographed by Desney Toia-Sinapati and Rob Emblen. The dancing is a credit to the hard work these two must have put in to make this the show it is. While re-creating some of the iconic moments of the original show such as the boxes in the finale, there are also some fabulous new moves which really help to update the style of this classic. Emblen also doubles as Max Renfield/Dexter in the show and what a contribution that is. Rob’s experience and his position as tap dancing royalty in Australia really shines through, and whenever he is on stage, one cannot help but be drawn to look at this man and his amazing talents.
Unfortunately on the preview we saw, there were some noticeable issues with sound. Some singers/actors could not be heard over the band or the tapping and there was some feedback coming through. These issues were mostly overcome by the second half of the show and we were relieved to be able sit back and enjoy the most entertaining part of the night. The first half of the show does have a tendency to drag and the sound issues did not help with this. At times, it seemed to lack a bit of energy in the quieter moments of the first half but this more than made up for by the energetic and fun dance sequences.
Costumes by Kim Heslewood and her team were lovely and bright with April’s outfits worth a special mention. This show could be challenging from many aspects for a community theatre company, no less so for the sets department. Set design and construction would have been hard at work to build and paint the many sets required for this production. The hard work really paid off as the sets really complement everything that occurs on stage.
Having a live band at the back of stage was a delightful addition. The superbly talented Musical Director and Conductor Nicky Griffiths, did an outstanding job filling the theatre with the classics of the golden age of American jazz and big band music.
Sincere congratulations to all of the many talented people who contributed to this production both on and off stage. Give yourselves a pat on the back and some well deserved praise.
Even if you have been lucky enough to see the original Hot Shoe Shuffle shows, any excuse to be entertained by adult dancers displaying their powerful tap dancing techniques. Highly recommend you grab your tickets while the season is on. Playing at the Wynnum State High School’s Star Theatre in Manly, the show is on up to and including Saturday 3rd July. Tickets can be purchased on the Savoyards website:- www.savoyards.com.au/hotshoeshuffle