nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
November 10, 2007
Tapeire, the new tap show at the New Victory, celebrates the Irish side of tap dancing, a side often underrepresented in the U.S. Video projections and photos of old Ireland form the framework, loosely telling the history of Irish dance with a ton of tap and musical numbers thrown in.
James Devine, the star of the piece, clearly deserves his title as the Guinness World Record Holder for fastest tapper; aficionados of tap will appreciate his fabulous technique. He often taps solo, but is joined frequently by a fiddler (Ashley Macisaac), a drummer (Paul Jennings), a harpist (Phamie Gow), or a combination of the three. Each of these musicians also has a solo moment to shine, and shine they do, but the show really stands out when all four come together in the opening and closing numbers.
The majority of the tap pieces follow a call-and-response formula between Devine and Jennings, with Jennings on different percussion instruments from pots and pans and a pair of spoons to a drum set and tambourine. The repetition of this formula does, well, get repetitive after a while; the show clocks in at around 75 minutes—a good 10-15 minutes could be shaved with no one being the wiser. However many of the pieces are fabulous just as they are; highlights include a number with Devine on a small platform emphasizing "economy of space" that includes a taste of stair dancing and tiny double pull-backs off of a frying pan, which really blew my mind.
The theatre, billed as New York's only theatre for kids and families, is quite comfortable, and the children at the performance I attended were incredibly well-behaved (kudos to the theatre, which with great foresight provides booster seats to eliminate viewing problems, and doesn't allow refreshments in the space). The New Victory, though, should really reexamine its late-seating policy; for the first 25 minutes of the performance I attended, a score of late patrons were seated immediately upon their arrival. Ushers with flashlights tried to find them their seats and a few noisy discussions with other seat holders occurred not, as one would hope, during appropriate breaks, but more often than not in the middle of musical numbers and dance routines.
The structure of the show could definitely use some fine tuning, and a little more variation between the numbers would help. However, tap dancing fans of any age should rush to the New Victory to catch Tapeire; it's not every day one can catch dancing of this caliber, and James Devine is definitely one of the best.