The much-anticipated world preem of “Steel City,” the new show from the team behind “Tap Dogs” (which has grossed $ 26 million worldwide from continuing tours), is a bigger, brassier and noisier spectacle than its groundbreaking predecessor and should be no less of a hit.
Show is more structured than “Tap Dogs,” opening in a steel factory where performers in overalls clock in and then use an amazing range of factory sounds as a basis for their percussive dances. Hoofers in work boots stomp as lockers slam and iron bars clang, progressing to dance-foolery with cars and trucks after work, building to an evening dance finale.
This is an overwhelmingly male piece, despite the addition of three females. Some of the most engaging dancing is evident in an animated tap duet between Melissa Gibson and director-choreographer Dein Perry. The more memorably daring feats include dancing on steel platforms moving across the ceiling, stomping on walls while hanging off ropes, a troupe dancing atop a modified pickup truck, and one performer dancing on four forklifts lined up to form a constantly moving staircase.
But while live, thunderously loud rock music, composed by Tim Finn (formerly of the band Crowded House) gives the action some punch, it often threatens to overpower parts of the show and frequently necessitates straining to hear the tapping. Indeed, allowing music and set to share top billing with the dancing is a key departure from the intense and effective simplicity of “Tap Dogs.”
While “Steel City” is not a sequel to the show that brought Perry international acclaim, inevitably there will be comparisons with “Tap Dogs.” In the earlier show, the art of tap-dancing was better explored, the distinctive personalities of each dancer were more evident, and there was a raw, fresh, almost sexual energy that’s lacking this time around. Indeed, “Steel City’s” standout dance sequences are not as long or intense as those in “Dogs,” and no sparks fly here as they literally did before.
That said, “Steel City,” which seems to have more product placement than “Tomorrow Never Dies,” is a slicker, more commercial show that’s proving a runaway hit with Sydney Festival audiences eager for a night of loud, ripping entertainment.