HOUSTON – "There's a lot of talent here in Houston that I feel is being overlooked," proclaimed Hjordis Scranton, choreographer of The Ensemble Theatre's May 14 - June 14 revival of The Tap Dance Kid, the long-running Broadway dance musical from the 1980s. "The major professional companies in town that produce musicals, like Theatre Under The Stars, go to New York or Los Angeles to cast lead roles. This is a shame."
Scranton studied dance from a young age with famed Houstonian Patsy Swayze, mother of dirty dancing Patrick, the movie star. Scranton herself went on to appear in the feature film Tap, which starred dancing standouts from three generations. Scranton, who has her own dance academy for children and also teaches dance at an area elementary school, also was in the chorus of nightclub acts headlining Ann-Margret, Liza Minnelli, and Gavin MacLeod. Recalling her initial training, Scranton said, "We had to be able to do everything: jazz, ballet, tap."
Tap, of course, is what's called for in The Tap Dance Kid, book by Charles Blackwell, music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Robert Lorick. Scranton summarized her steps as "a conglomeration of tap greats": the Nicholas Brothers, the Hines Brothers, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jimmy Slyde, Sandman Sims, Bunny Briggs, and a youngster named Savion Glover. "There's a big difference between actual tap dancing and hoofing," Scranton pointed out. "Hoofing has more sound to it. Tap is more stylized." Scranton employs both types of legwork.
The tap dance kid of the title is, in this case, be a girl. Actually two girls, alternating the role of the "gotta dance" tyke determined to follow in the footsteps of her uncle, an aspiring choreographer, instead of her lawyer father. Ensemble artistic director Eileen J. Morris directs. Well-known Houston song-and-dance man Anthony Glover leads the cast.
The Tap Dance Kid opens at The Ensemble Theater in Houston May 14 and runs through June 14. For tickets, $10 - $25, call (713) 520-0055 By Peter Szatmary