Rock on Tap

Published 10:54 am Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tap Dogs, coming to the Morris Performing Arts Center, is described as part theater, part dance, part rock concert.

“Tap Dogs,” the most successful tap show of all time, is coming to South Bend, Ind., as part of the 2012-13 Broadway Series. This production will play three shows at the Morris Performing Arts Center from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.

Tickets start at $37 and are available online at, at the Morris box office, by calling (574) 235-9190 or at the following outlets: Hammes Bookstore/Eddy Street Commons, South Bend; O’Brien Recreation Center, South Bend; and Super Sounds/TG Music, Goshen.

“Tap Dogs” is taking the world by storm having been performed in 330 cities worldwide with 12 million seats sold. Created by two-time Olivier Award-winning choreographer Dein Perry, with a construction site set by eclectic designer/director Nigel Triffitt and a driving score by composer Andrew Wilkie, “Tap Dogs,” a rocking theatrical entertainment — part theater, part dance, part rock concert — is a rough, tough and rocking reinvention of tap.

Humble beginnings

Perry, Australian creator and choreographer of “Tap Dogs,” has come a long way from the makeshift dance school in Newcastle, a steel town north of Sydney, where, as young boys, he and the future dogs learned how to tap. At 17, with no opportunities in sight for a dancing career, he earned his union papers and worked as an industrial machinist for six years. He then moved to Sydney where he tried to break into show business. Small chorus parts in Broadway-style musicals led to Perry’s big break when he was cast in the long-running Sydney production of “42nd Street.” When it closed, Perry decided to create a contemporary show around the themes of his industrial experience with his Newcastle tap-dancing mates.

With a small government grant, Perry contacted his old friends, who had taken up various “real” jobs by this time, and formed “Tap Brothers,” an early incarnation of “Tap Dogs.” From this, Perry was offered the chance to choreograph the West End musical, “Hot Shoe Shuffle,” which brought the group to London and earned Perry his Olivier Award in 1995. A subsequent offer from the Sydney Theatre Company led to the collaboration with designer and director Triffitt, resulting in the creation of “Tap Dogs.”

Catching fire

“Tap Dogs” was the instant hit of the Sydney Theatre Festival, where it had its world premiere in January 1995 and caused an equal sensation at the Edinburgh Festival later that year. “Tap Dogs” then played to standing room only at London’s Sadler’s Wells, return tours of Australia and a second West End engagement.

“Tap Dogs” made its North American debut at Montreal’s “Just For Laughs” festival in August 1996. The show then played to critical acclaim on a limited North American tour prior to an engagement in New York City, where Perry earned a 1997 Drama Desk nomination for “Best Choreography” and the show received a 1997 Obie Award. “Tap Dogs” went on to be immortalized in the movie “Bootmen,” directed by Dein Perry and inspired by his “Tap Dog” experiences. “Tap Dogs” has toured throughout North America, Europe, Australia, the Far East and South Africa.