Maurice Hines is starring in a new show, “Tappin’ Thru Life,” at New World Stages on West 50th Street. Sitting in the intimate theater, you feel as if you are visiting a friend, rather than attending a performance. Hines has an easygoing, welcoming and friendly approach to his work. When you think about the “entertainers” of the past, the classic entertainers who made you feel comfortable, welcome and even familiar, that is the era that Hines is from and you feel it. Being in that theater is a wonderfully relaxing experience.
Hines is an accomplished tap dancer and was part of a childhood tap-dance team with his younger brother, Gregory. Hines lets everyone get to know the story of his and Gregory’s entire career. We get to know the role his mother, father and grandmother played in their career and lives. We also get to hear about the racism that these young brothers were exposed to during their careers, first as little boys performing in Las Vegas and experiencing segregation, to traveling in states where signs that read, “Colored served in the rear” were ubiquitous.
It was marvelous and uplifting to hear about all the breaks these young, talented brothers got and the greats they performed with, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland and so many more. Hines introduces the audience to the highlights and the low points in their lives. He demonstrates his love and respect for his parents as he shares tender moments in their dating and married life. You can see that he and Gregory were fortunate to witness a tender love between their parents.
In the midst of the storytelling, Hines sings great classic songs such as “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” but with his own style and flair. Of course he taps (and choreographs all of his dance routines) and does so with such energy at the age of 72 that the audience goes wild. He also introduces and features the tap dancing talents and versatility of the Manzari brothers, John and Leo. These young men are incredibly talented, and some of the most wonderful moments happen when they go toe to toe with Hines. Another outstanding moment is watching Hines introduce 17-year-old tap dancer Dario Natarelli, who is amazing.
Hines performs a touching dance tribute with Gregory’s “spirit” and it’s moving to watch. The entire show has live music accompaniment from an all-female orchestra called The Diva Jazz Orchestra. The Manzani brothers’ choreography is both by them and by Anthony Morigerato. The entertaining, revealing and charming performance has delightful direction by Jeff Calhoun. This production is a great production to see, especially if you are into the classic style of the veteran entertainers who made you feel at home in the theatre.
“Tappin’ Thru Life” is terrific!