Make us your home page
Instagram

Review: Too much on tap in 'Pulse'

Danny Gardner, left, and Noah Racey tap and tap and tap. It can get a bit tedious.

John Revisky

Danny Gardner, left, and Noah Racey tap and tap and tap. It can get a bit tedious.

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 fleming@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8716.

.If You Go

Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance runs through June 4 at Asolo Repertory Theatre, 5555 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $20-$72. (941) 351-8000 or 1-800-361-8388; asolorep.org

Review: Too much on tap in 'Pulse' 05/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 5:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders

    Cooking

    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  2. Taste test: Unsalted butters

    Taste Test

    Even good things should be tasted in moderation. That's why we divided the columns for our tasting of salted butters. Last week, our judges shared their favorites from the first eight of 16 varieties found at local grocery stores. Here, they review the other eight. We spread the butters on unsalted saltine crackers in …

  3. For Fourth of July, an American feast inspired by founding father Alexander Hamilton

    Cooking

    Are there a million things you haven't done? Is one of them throwing a patriotic party inspired by one of the founding fathers?

    Caribbean Pork With Potato Salad makes for the perfect Fourth of July meal.
  4. 'Baby Driver' literally turns heist movie genre on its ear, set to slick soundtrack

    Movies

    Buckle up for Baby Driver, a movie so full throttle cool that you want to fist bump the screen. Style is the substance of Edgar Wright's inventive heist flick, a fresh, masterful synching of music and getaway mayhem, as if La La Land's traffic jam was moving, armed and dangerous.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for heist arranger Doc (Kevin Spacey). Plagued by tinnitus, Baby tunes out his distracting “hum in the drum” by listening to music while he drives.
Sony Pictures
  5. Canada Day is coming to Tampa's Latin District

    Events

    TAMPA -- Ybor City is Tampa's Latin District, known for showcasing Cuban, Spanish and Italian cultures.

    Toronto native Bryan Grimsdale at the Seminole Heights Grocery Store. He is hosting a Canada Day celebration in Ybor City to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday. The event held at The Dirty Shame will feature games, Canadian treats and Canadian music. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times