‘Hot Shoe Shuffle’ was toe-tapping.
Savoyard Musical Theatre’s latest production is full of well-known tunes, elaborate costumes and most importantly, lightning-fast choreography. Though the night was cold, the audiences were kept warm and fully entertained at the beautiful Star Theatre for the preview performance of ‘Hot Shoe Shuffle’.
This show is an Australian jukebox musical that incorporates big band songs of the ’20s to ’40s. The story follows seven Tap Brothers who have been left a fortune by their late father. In order to claim the inheritance, they must practice and perform his legendary act, ‘The Hot Shoe Shuffle!’
Lighting design by Allan Nutley was simplistic, with a spotlight as the main effect. Though there could have been more elements, this simple design ensured the choreography was always visible.
Unfortunately, there were sound issues throughout the night. Feedback from the microphones disturbed a large portion of Act I and the microphones were sometimes left on when the actors were backstage or not turned on fast enough at the beginning of a song. Hopefully, the technical team can address these issues for the rest of the season.
The set pieces were wonderfully simplistic. Constructed in a whimsical, comic book style, they provided interest on stage without overshadowing or obstructing the choreography. A large staircase sat to the right of the stage, which provided a perfect platform for the show within a show to be performed.
Costumes by Kim Heslewood and the team were spectacular. Each of the Tap Brothers sported a bright suit of a different colour. The dresses worn by April (the female sibling to the Tap Brothers) were astoundingly unique. Their quality and construction were reminiscent of a Hollywood red carpet. One dress, in particular, had a train so long that it spanned the entire length of the staircase.
Johanna Toia’s direction was well thought out and purposeful. For the majority of Act I, only the front section of the stage was used, and Toia did well to create dynamic and interesting blocking with depth that kept the audience engaged. Her use of levels ensured the blocking was never monotonous or boring.
Musical director and conductor Nicky Griffiths ensured the live band did not overpower the singing; harmonies were well-balanced and blended. It is a treat to have a live band in community theatre and complemented the big band style of this show.
Co-choreographers Desney Toia-Sinapati and Rob Emblem had their work cut out for them, and they did not disappoint. The show was jam-packed with exciting and dynamic tap numbers. Their incorporation of tricks with canes and hats saw the audience clapping and cheering before the numbers had even finished. Though the show is predominantly tap-based, the choreographers never let the routines become boring. An example of this was their inclusion of a drunken jazz routine and a soft shoe tap number involving sand. Emblem also featured as the character Dexter and it was nice to see him capture the limelight and show off his own impressive tap abilities.
Reindert Toia excelled as Spring. As the lead Tap Brother, Reindert Toia was the glue that held the family, and the show, together. His warm and relaxed stage presence made him instantly likeable. Coupled with his confident dance ability and smooth soulful voice, he was a pleasure to watch.
Natalie Lennox’s characterisation of April was solid, as was her American accent and sweet but hapless disposition. Her handling of the elaborate costuming has to be mentioned as she manoeuvred the layers of fabric while singing, without missing a beat. It would have been nice if she had more opportunity to show off her dance ability, as it was evident she was an accomplished dancer.
As a whole, the seven Tap Brothers blended well. Though there was a large height disparity between the actors, their dancing was synchronised and their taps were loud and clear. Chris Jordan as Slide had a confident tap posture and crisp footwork. He danced so hard, he split his jacket open. That energy is what made the show so special – each and every performer put in 100 per cent for the two-and-a-half hours of solid dancing and singing. Not one actor ever appeared tired or sluggish, and for that, they must be commended.
‘Hot Shoe Shuffle’ provided an abundance of entertainment, wonderful choreography and songs from years gone by. A definite must-see for anyone with an interest in tap, this show certainly is a toe-tapping good time!
‘Hot Shoe Shuffle’ performs until Saturday 3 July 2021 at The Star Theatre, Manly. For more information, visit Savoyards Musical Theatre’s website.
Photography by Sharyn Hall