IT'S RARE that a touring version of a Broadway hit surpasses the original, but "The Tap Dance Kid" pulls it off, with a castful of winning performances and a showful of snappy, happy numbers. Redirected by Jerry Zaks, the moving (and shaking) musical is at the Warner Theater for a too-short two weeks.
Descended from a vaudeville family, ten- year-old Willie idolizes his uncle Dipsey, a struggling dancer/choreographer, and wants to become a dancer himself. But Willie's dad, a self-made lawyer who provides everything but affection for his kids, has other plans. "Your future's not in your feet," he says. "We didn't get off the plantation till we stopped dancing and started doing." Meanwhile, Willie's protective, overweight sister Emma desperately wants to be a lawyer, an aspiration ignored by her father.
More than just a song-and-dance sitcom, Charles Blackwell's sassy, sensitive script explores ambition and recognition of the needs of others. The brassy R&B-flavored tunes are by "Dreamgirls" composer Henry Krieger, with story-serving lyrics by Robert Lorick.
Danny Daniels' eclectic choreography squeezes tapdancing into every imaginable style and situation: in pajamas and bare feet, hightop sneakers, roller skates, toe shoes, with jumpropes, and in a "chain gang" of clowns. They didn't skimp on the sets, either, a system of scrims, drops and sliding photomurals that suggests 11 locations.
The hardworking cast and chorus line deserve kudos, especially adorably serious Dul,e Hill as Willie; Martine Allard, who plays sister Emma with a clear voice made for musicals; Eugene Fleming, who gives Dipsey a grainy pop baritone and kick-in-the-head extensions; and Chuck Cooper as father William, who withholds his remarkable power till his angry, heartwrenching explanatory number.
P.S.: Stay for the curtain call.
THE TAP DANCE KID -- At the Warner Theater through March 9.