Thursday, January 18, 2018
Stage

Review: Too much on tap in 'Pulse'

SARASOTA — Tap dancing can be a delightful kick, but it's one art form where less is definitely more, as demonstrated by Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance, now being premiered at Asolo Repertory Theatre.

Conceived, written and choreographed by Broadway dancer Noah Racey, the show mainly features tap, and it has a talented, likeable cast, including Racey in the leading role, tapping away to songs ranging from standards such as the old straw hat and cane number Once in Love With Amy to Regina Spektor's moody Eet.

There's nothing wrong with the dancing in Pulse, which includes a seven-piece band onstage, but a whole show of tap gets to be a bit much. All the energetic hoofing and smiling is also undercut by Racey's narrative, which doesn't have much of a point. This is somewhat surprising since the revue was directed by Jeff Calhoun, an experienced hand whose Broadway credits include Newsies, Bonnie & Clyde and Deaf West's Big River.

The dancers' windy speeches about the meaning of what they do ("Our whole universe is made up of rhythm") interspersed with snippets of maudlin autobiography quickly become tedious. There's a self-consciousness to their relationship with the audience that leads to shtick like a clapping routine by Racey that goes on much too long, or his awkward riff on being a stuttering child. All the talk feels like padding between dance numbers, which can be quite flashy individually but don't flow that well from one to the next. The dancers do the singing, with mixed results.

Racey has resurrected some classic gems for his show, such as Necessity (from Finian's Rainbow), a jaunty duet by him and Danny Gardner, and Drum Crazy, a Fred Astaire number from Easter Parade, with the dancers joined by the band's percussionist Jason Yudoff and drummer Jon Berger. There are some unexpected songs, such as the downhome funk of You Can Love Yourself by Keb' Mo', performed by Racey on washboard along with Gardner, Christopher Erk and Anthony J. Russo. Racey and Lauralyn McClelland dance a pas de deux to a sultry sax solo from Melody Gardot's Baby I'm a Fool.

Russo, an alumnus of Tap Dogs and Cirque du Soleil's Banana Shpeel, is an especially appealing presence, with an unconventional style that comes across as fresh and spontaneous in a tap solo without music, inspired by his misspent school days in detention. Tobin Ost designed the sleek set and costumes, such as the sharp gray suits worn by all in Puttin' on the Ritz and Rich Girl. The show's big finish is a finger-snapping, toe-tapping On the Sunny Side of the Street.

The run time of Pulse is listed at 90 minutes with no intermission, but the matinee I attended this past Wednesday was about 10 minutes shorter, because one of the six cast members, Frances Bradley, was out with a knee injury. She is to be replaced next week by Melinda Sullivan from So You Think You Can Dance.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

RIVERDANCE AT 20: CIARA SEXTONShe’s a former world champion in Irish dance, and now Ciara Sexton, center, is leading Riverdance in Tampa. A lead dancer and soloist with the troupe, Sexton said she has felt comfortable touring the states."What really ...
Published: 01/17/18
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

By JULIE GARISTOTimes CorrespondentTAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Gnit strikes gold for theatergoers who appreciate deadpan wit, clever wordplay and incisive commentary on the human condition.First produced in 2013, the retread of a Scandinavian c...
Published: 01/16/18
A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

MIAMI — The idea seemed outlandish, maybe even impossible at the time: a one-man play about Miami’s infamous Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. Some 15 years ago, the Miami-raised Billy Corben was deep into research for what would become Coca...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/16/18

Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

HUDSON —If you saw the musical Pippin when it first hit Broadway in 1972, or a high school drama club version, or even a touring company rendition a decade ago, it’s not exactly the Pippin you’ll see if you’re wise enough to go see the spectacular mo...
Published: 01/15/18
With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

An actor famous for playing a radio station manager will star this week in the world premiere of a radio play.Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder brings Gary Sandy, who played Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, to Ruth Eckerd Hall. And the star power was ...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

If you’re already singing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack alone, why not meet like-minded folks and do it together?A Hamilton singalong goes down tonight at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. Fans will gather to sing the entire — y...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

ST. PETERSBURGThe dancers kept moving, spinning, pausing for arabesques or stretches. Over most of a December afternoon at the Mirror Lake Studios, they rarely stopped, whether rehearsing specific routines or not.Choreographer Lauren Ree Slone also m...
Published: 01/11/18
Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Daniel Lipton, Opera Tampa’s most recent artistic director, is being sought by Canadian authorities in connection with a sexual assault.The alleged assault took place in the late 1980s, a woman the Times is not naming told the Hamilton Police Service...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

TAMPA — The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has ended its relationship with visiting artistic director Doreen Rao. The announcement on Tuesday continues an ongoing uncertainty about leadership for the chorale, which has not had a permanent artistic direc...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/10/18