I love that the Encores! Series at the New York City Center seems to delight in presenting productions that take the audience back in time to some of the fantastic musicals we remember from our childhoods. For this past week only, performances were staged of the phenomenal, “The Tap Dance Kid.” Yes, I said “The Tap Dance Kid”—can you remember the original production? I certainly can! I was so excited just to see that it was being presented for a brief engagement this weekend—so excited! But my joy was increased ten-fold when I saw the creative team behind it: Lydia R. Diamond did the concert adaptation of the book by Charles
Blackwell; there were new, dazzling tap sequences by choreographer Jared Grimes; and splendid direction by Tony award winning director Kenny Leon. The revival also had music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Robert Lorick and guest musical direction by Joseph Joubert.

This stunning musical had the audience cheering, applauding and amazed as it told the story of Willie, a 10-year-old boy who comes from a well-off Black family and dreams of being a tap dancer like his uncle Dipsey and famous grandfather, Daddy Bates. Willie’s dream is something that his father William fights against, as he wants Willie to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer. The dynamic of this family is quite interesting. As the father William tries to run everyone’s lives, from Willie’s to his daughter Emma’s to his wife Ginnie’s, he finds that when you run people’s lives and ignore how they feel, you run the risk of losing everything that means something to you.

This musical is a tribute to the great tap dancers of our time; Bill Bojangles Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr. and other tap greats were named in the show, but it was also an intoxicating, original and mesmerizing display of some of the most dynamic tap numbers you would hope to see. There is just something inspiring and uplifting about watching marvelous tap dancers who make it look effortless. The vocals were also something to write home about. Alexander Bello played the 10-year-old kid with an enormous love for tap, singing and entertaining. (You may recognize his name from his recent starring role in “Caroline, Or Change” on Broadway.) He has a splendid vocal instrument and proved to be a brilliant dancer. Shahadi Wright Joseph was absolutely phenomenal as his older sister Emma, who speaks up against the father’s tyranny and has the ability to be a fine lawyer one day. Her singing was stupendous! Adrienne Walker was stunning as Ginnie, Willie’s mother. She is a woman trying to be loyal to her husband William, despite his dictatorial tone with her and the children. Walker sang beautifully. When it came to singing however, the house came down when Joshua Henry, who played William, sang of his displeasure about his son being a dancer. Henry’s voice is so rich, so powerful, so distinctive—it just left everyone frozen, waiting to burst into uncontrollable applause! A tap dancer extraordinaire—Dewitt Fleming Jr.—commanded the role of Daddy Bates, Willie’s deceased grandfather, who had been a famous tap dancer. He did it all and with passion and extraordinary grace! Trevor Jackson gave his all as Dipsey, Willie’s uncle who is a tapper and choreographer trying to mount a musical that shows great love to this wonderful dance form. Tracee Beazer was memorable as Dipsey’s love interest and a performer in his company, Carole. Chance Smith was fine as Winslow. The Encores! Orchestra provided vibrant music and beautifully supported this fantastic work.

While the featured performers were dazzling, I can’t begin to describe the tremendous talent of the ensemble dancers. These many men and women will ensure that this incredible dance form lives on with splendor, grace and excitement!

When you hear about a production happening as part of Encores! Series at New York City Center, get your ticket! For more information, visit www.nycitycenter.org.

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