Puttin’ on the Ritz
Hot Shoe Shuffle has landed in Melbourne after stellar seasons in Brisbane and Sydney. And it is quite easy to see why this Australian show has experienced great success not only in Australia but also overseas on the West End. But there is one quintessential element which allows this show to be such a success . . . .
I had the privilege to see Hot Shoe Shuffle during this afternoon’s preview and the sheer talent on the stage is overwhelming. Bobby Fox, David Atkins, the six Tap Brothers and Jaz Flowers were all sensational in their comical tap dancing roles as a troupe of tap dancing brothers who have to teach their ‘sister’ how to tap dance in order to perform their father’s famous routine and inherit over $2.5 million. And a special shout-out to Mason Schaube (Slide Tap) who was the target of the large majority of comic fodder in the production!
The only thing that is lacking from this musical is an in-depth storyline, but this may just be a stroke of genius that not only allows these dancers to show off their phenomenal tap dancing but also helps enhance the audience experience! I’ll explain . . .
Over time, the way that we have enjoyed artistic performances has changed. From 1900 onwards, audiences have been expected to sit immobile in chairs watching the performance with rapt attention. But before this time music was appreciated in a different way. Audiences were expected to shout ‘encore’, whoop during parts they liked and boo during boring sections.
Now, there wasn’t any booing in today’s performance of Hot Shoe Shuffle, but there were plenty of reactions at the other end of the scale!
There was heaps of hollering, whooping and whistling during the performance as the audience were taken by the tap dancing spectacle. There were even a large number of people shouting ‘Encore’ after the last number (Something that I haven’t seen very often from a musical theatre crowd). And here is where the genius of the simple comical storyline comes in.
It allows the actors to occasionally break character and interact with the audience! Especially since you don’t need a degree in rocket science or forensic psychology to understand where the storyline is going.
These little sidebars that actors have with the audience only enhance their experience at the show because they are now included in the performance. By repeating a number because the audience wants to see it again, the audience feel like they have had some part in shaping the performance they are seeing and that the actors on stage understand how appreciative they are of their onstage skills.
Plus, to be honest, the show becomes even funnier when one of the leads is interacting with an overzealous and overenthusiastic grandmother in the third row!
By breaking this fourth wall, the audience are no longer being performed to, they are being incorporated into the performance. And as a result everybody in that theatre left on a high because they were able to interact with the actors on stage.
Of course, this wouldn’t work in a very serious and melodramatic play. But at least consider it when you are creating a piece of theatre because it helps everyone in the audience feel that little bit closer to realising their dreams of being on stage with those fabulously talented performers.
And that can only do good things for your repeat business!