Dancing is Tapman’s strength, but production values are his Kryptonite


Capital Fringe Festival’s “The Adventures of Tapman” with Tristan Bruns. (Tapman Productions)
July 23

Tapman, a dancing crime fighter­ with toes of steel, needs to be rescued by a daring sound designer. Talk this superhero down from a perilous ledge of elevator music and garbled audio, and “The Adventures of Tapman,” which opened at the Capital Fringe Festival on Tuesday, would indeed be a feat of derring-do. As is, the show is a cobbled-together hour of corny humor featuring what may be the best dancing at Fringe.

When he’s not wearing a mask, blue Spandex and a lightning-bolt belt, Tapman (a.k.a. Tristan Bruns) is a mild-mannered dance instructor from Chicago who has performed with several respected troupes. Over the summers, he hits the road with his sidekick and puts on a show with low production values that foil his plans like a supervillain. The performance opens with Bruns “tied up” in oversized plastic chains, singing about the life of a superhero. He’s saved by the Modern Marvel (Kate O’Hanlon as a crime-fighting modern dancer, get it?). She’s not the best actress, but their meet-cute results in this one-liner: “I pick up choreography really well; it’s one of my superpowers.” The pair has two pas de deux that sweetly fuse modern, ballroom, flamenco and tap.

Bruns’s solo choreography is coolest when he’s simulating fights (pulling up his knees, then throwing down assertive clacks) and running for his life (rapidly scooting his legs sideways and throwing in smooth one-foot slides). In one vignette, the Tapman discovers “the sacred sands of India,” preserved in a pouch deep in the bowels of the National Archives. He dumps the contents on a panel and performs an impressive homage to vaudeville hoofer Howard “Sandman” Sims. But tap is a percussive art form, and poor musical choices detract from even top-notch tap. The “sand dance” is performed to a synthesized rendition of Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” with the melody played on what sounds like the pan flute setting of a cheap Casio keyboard. Tapman’s oft-played “theme song” is a cheesy cellphone acoustic guitar riff, and a cute duet is bogged down by dentist-office jazz.

Amusing videos explain the origins of Tapman (a basement chemistry experiment gone wrong) and depict an attempted robbery at a dance studio, but the narration was drowned out by yet more music. Can superheroes qualify for NEA grants? Because with a bit of consultation and a cash infusion, “The Adventures of Tapman” would be quite a caper.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.

The Adventures of Tapman

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 6:15 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday

and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE.
Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button.

About 60 minutes.

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