The Tappin’ Life By Paulanne Simmons
A good part of what makes Maurice Hines Tappin’ Thru Life so memorable is the great generosity Hines shows toward those who helped him on the way to becoming such an iconic song and dance man. His greatest praise goes to his parents, his father, his mother and his brother, all performers in their own right.
Leo Manzari, Maurice Hines, John Manzari
Even his grandmother, who taught Maurice and Gregory how to dance to “Ballin’ the Jack” for a very important audition, gets special recognition. Maurice’s demonstration of that youthful version is quite hilarious.
Hines does not sugarcoat his past, however. He remembers the painful ten years when he and his brother did not speak and how grateful he was when they reunited before Gregory died. The dance he performs with his brother, whose tapping we can hear but don’t see, is sentimental in all the right ways.
Hines also acknowledges all the professionals who helped and/or encouraged him: Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin. Judy Garland seemed intimidating at first, mostly because she wouldn’t show up at rehearsals, but when she at last did, she refused to be called Miss Garland, insisting, “We’re going to be together for two days; call me Judy.”
Hines’s memories of Tallulah Bankhead are bittersweet. When she insisted that Gregory and Maurice be allowed to swim in a Las Vegas hotel, all the other swimmers abandoned the pool, and when the two boys left, the pool was drained.
At one point, Hines turns the stage over to friendly adversaries (the night I saw the show the brothers John and Leo Manzari) and a rising star in the tapping world (the night I saw the show Luke Spring). This gives the audience a chance to see what the future of tap looks like. And it is good.
The Tappin’ Life is directed by Broadway veteran Jeff Calhoun and features the all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra, nine women who really know how to swing. Music director Sherrie Maricle’s drum solo is not to be missed.
Before song and dance were incorporated into musicals, the song and dance man was a staple of vaudeville. This nostalgic revue takes us back to the time when a performer’s best friends were his tappin’ shoes and his smile.
Maurice Hines Tappin’ Thru Life *****
New World Stages, 340 West 50 Street, www.newworldstages. com.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
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