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Distaff twist on Aussie’s ‘Dogs’

Women also join terpers in 'Rebooted'

LONDON — “Tap Dogs” is back in Britain for what seems an annual visit (in fact, the Australian-spawned stompers have had four London runs since 1995), this time with a difference: The fairer sex is getting its chance to make some noise.

Women might seem alien to “Tap Dogs”‘ terpsichorean ways, which have patented a particular kind of brazen, brawny testosterone-on-parade.

But, says Aussie performer Rachel Schmalz, recalling her conversation with the extravaganza’s creator, fellow Australian Dein Perry: “I kept saying to Dein, ‘Put a girl in. Put a girl in.’ ”

And now there are three — women, that is — even if crix haven’t exactly crowed over Perry’s latest, “Tap Dogs Rebooted.” (Production runs at Sadler’s Wells through Aug. 23.)

“The girls do pretty much the same as the boys,” wrote the Evening Standard’s Sarah Frater, “albeit in cute minis and bra tops, and they’re not especially good dancers. They also look bored.”

Awarding the production two stars out of five, Keith Watson in freebie paper Metro dismissed the addition of the women as “patronizing tokenism” in which “(the women) are given little to do.”

Wrote Donald Hutera in the Times: “The remix neither asks nor answers why the guys are joined by three women.” But Hutera did find this version “slicker, longer and louder than ever.” And culturally diverse, with an American and several British tappers added to the Antipodean mix.

It’s a workout, to be sure, regardless of gender. “I can’t tell you how many bruises I’ve got,” says Schmalz, at 26 the baby of the group. Standing 5’10”, she said it was “nice for a change” to be in a show where her height works on her behalf.

But the tapping on metal can lead to shin splints and the like — just as Schmalz’s labors in another Perry concoction, “Steel City” back in Australia, landed her a broken nose.

No doubt mindful of the critics, Perry has led the ensemble back into rehearsals. “So much has changed,” Schmalz says, “even a week” after opening.

Clear Channel is producing the three-week Sadlers Wells engagement. Stand is the final stop on a tour that has included a bus-and-truck sweep through Germany at the start of 2003 followed by Switzerland, Budapest, the U.K. regions and two months in South Africa.

If nothing else, “Tap Dogs”‘ title is certainly timely in London at the moment. Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog” opened Aug. 11 at the Royal Court, with its Broadway cast intact. Not to be outdone, Sept. 3 sees the opening of Swiss playwright Urs Widmer’s “Top Dogs” at Southwark Playhouse.