Everyone has a beating heart. And, from the director’s perspective, that simple and basic rhythm from within is what makes “Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life” so intrinsically resonant.
Minutes before the show’s opening night Wednesday, the two-time Tony-winning director Jeff Calhoun talked candidly about the show at Delaware Theatre Company.
He said Hines has been doing pieces and versions of the show elsewhere, but Wednesday’s show was the debut of the polished version that Calhoun hopes to take, for a limited time, to Broadway. He hopes the show can then travel on tour afterward.
“My job is to make people look good, and it’s not hard with Maurice,” Calhoun said.
His biggest challenge, he said, was convincing Hines that the show could go deeper than a happy-go-lucky song-and-tap-dance performance. What Calhoun really wanted was what he called Hines’ “dinner stories,” or the entertaining, poignant – and true – tales Hines would tell him at the dinner table.
And boy, does Hines deliver on those dinner stories. He transports the audience to a different time, beginning with an early childhood memory in the 1950s. The remarkable thing about “Tappin’ Thru Life” is Hines’ ability to offer more than a show: He gives the audience an authentic look at, simply, the essence of who he is as brother, son and performer. Hines does so with humor, emotion and a good dose of crooning classic standards and tap-dancing in black and white wing-tipped shoes. The stories come alive with the help of the talented nine-piece, all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra and with artfully-placed screens that project real-life photos.
The show is delightfully punctuated with appearances by the mesmerizing tap duo of the Manzari brothers and one of the three local children chosen to represent the future of America’s tap-dancers. Wednesday night’s audience was not disappointed with 10-year old Maximus Klevence, a fifth-grader at Primos Elementary. (The other two are Abigail Cowan, a 13-year-old who studies at the Delaware Arts Conservatory, and Jake Sweeny, a 9-year-old who attends Newark Center for Creative Learning.)
Calhoun said he’d be surprised if people left the show with less energy than when they arrived— and per the energized crowd leaving the theater Wednesday night, he’ll likely be right about that for as long as the show runs.
“Maurice Hines Is Tappin’ Thru Life” runs at Delaware Theatre Company through Oct. 4. Find more information here at the Company’s website.