It was 10 years ago when a group of Aussie mates while catching-up at their local pub had an idea to create a tap dance show. Inspired by their love and respect of the 1960s legendary Rat Pack, combined with their own tap dance talents, the idea of The Tap Pack was born. Little did they know this show would take them on successful world-wide tours from London’s West End, America, China, Asia, Germany, to performing on cruise ships. Now excited to be back home and on stage in Brisbane and Sydney, The Tap Pack Creative Directors and cast members, Thomas J Egan and Jordan Pollard, spoke with Dance Informa on what it’s like to be bringing their one-of-a-kind show to hometown audiences.
The Tap Pack has been a journey that started with friendship at the forefront, explains Egan. “We were all wanting to work together and we had worked together for years doing gigs, auditions and musical theatre shows. We loved the Rat Pack, and we are all big tap dance enthusiasts and there was the marriage of the idea of the Rat Pack and tap dance, so we were sitting in pubs, writing the show on a napkin, which sounds like a cliché but it’s true.”
It was the fashionable style, the fun and spontaneity that the Rat Pack brought to their performances that inspired The Tap Pack. “They were cool and wore suits, and it’s that style that appealed to us. Looking good and feeling good,” says Pollard. “Frank (Sinatra), Dean (Martin) and Sammy (Davis Jr) never went anywhere without looking sharp. You listen to any of their live recordings, and they had great banter between them and in-jokes that the audience are in with, and it just felt like this really great and spontaneous lightning in a bottle almost. Every performance was unique, and you couldn’t replicate it.”
It’s this same magic that The Tap Pack brings to their show. All five of The Tap Pack take to the stage dressed in suits, and entertain with jazz, swing and pop songs, along with fun and witty banter and incredible tap dance skills. “The show doesn’t take itself too seriously,” says Egan. “I think that fun energy and entertainment value is what has made it so appealing to audiences.”
Taking their Aussie show overseas was a dream come true for The Tap Pack, with many special moments and memories made. For Pollard, it was the realization of a dream. “Looking across the stage and seeing one of your best mates doing the same thing and having a good time and trying to make you laugh. That’s awesome!” he exclaims. “I have a very fond memory of one of our last shows in America. We finished, put our hands up in the air, and the audience goes wild. I look to my left and see Jesse (Creative Director and cast member) and I look to my right and see Tommy, and I’m like, ‘Wow, we’re just some Aussie kids with a bit of a dream and lot of hard work and perseverance, and we got our show to America. To have it appreciated across the world, I have locked that into the memory bank. It’s very cool!”
After the COVID pandemic cut short their overseas tour, the cast are now excited and grateful to be once again performing, especially in their hometown. “It’s just good to be back,” says Pollard. “There is a good energy around, and we can’t wait after the last few years to just get in front of a live audience again and to just have fun. I think that is what it is mainly about, isn’t it? To have a laugh and enjoy each other and the songs and dances.”
Every show is unique with The Tap Pack. Not only have they included new material since they last toured, but they also tailor their shows to connect with the local audience where they are performing. “We improvise a lot of numbers and that keeps it fresh, too, and it’s always different every night depending on the crowd,” Egan explains.
“We’ve got a whole new song and dance that has never been done before, so we are looking forward to getting that in the show,” Pollard adds. “We include material that talks to us and we still find fun. If it’s not fun for us anymore, then we look at how we can reinvent that and put more life into it and if we are having a great time, the audience comes along with us on that ride. We tailor it to every place we go with jokes and things specific to that area.”
As their name suggests, tap dance is at the heart of this show. “We’ve always had this kind of ethos that we wanted to make it a really diverse performance so that you are not just seeing tap by itself,” says Egan.
Pollard adds, “We’ve thought of as many ways as we can to put tap dance in a new and exciting light. Whether a new time signature like 3/4 or 5/4, using stairs or performing with canes. There are big parts of the show that are improvised really well. Tom (Egan) every night does a big tap improvisation solo that is completely made up on the spot. It’s new and fresh and even he doesn’t know what he is going to do, so you will see something just for you.”
With songs that include “Come Fly With Me,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “One for My Baby,” and hits by Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran, there is something for everyone. According to Egan, “Audiences can expect a lot of the big swing music that they would know and love but also some modern songs that are done in our own interpretation. They can expect great tap dancing and a lot of fun. Some comedy and good humour and just a great night out!”
Pollard adds that they genuinely love the support they receive from audiences. “We are doing it ourselves. We produce our shows. We’re pretty blessed to be doing tap dance which is a niche market, and we are kind of trying to open it up and make it really accessible. We still think it has a place in the world, and everyone who comes has a pretty good time. Come out and see the show, grab some tickets. You’ll have a great time!”
The Tap Pack is at the Playhouse South Brisbane from 12 – 15 July, and the Sydney Opera House from 19 – 30 July. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.thetappack.com.
By Nicole Saleh of Dance Informa.