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HOT SHOE SHUFFLE
Matt Byrne Media
Arts Theatre
Until 18 Jul 2009

Review by Richard Flynn

At first glance, director Matt Byrne would seem to be in kamikaze mode in attempting to stage “Hot
Shoe Shuffle”. It’s a cabaret-with-elements-of-a-musical, by Australia’s David Atkins, himself first and
foremost a tap and acrobatic dancer.

The show depends on seven hard-working young men (Michael Williams, Craig Brooker, Matthew
Brookes, Rohan Watts, Angus Smith, Thomas Phillips and Brendan Cooney). When you learn that
they’ve been rehearsing for only three months to learn a style of dance that is new to all but one of
them, you realise what they and their directors have achieved. In addition, they sing well, even
harmonize, while they execute the understandably basic routines.

Mr Byrne has assembled a talented group of ‘co-pilots’ and together they ensure a crash is averted.
After him, top honours go to candidate-for-sainthood choreographer, Sue Pole, who has coaxed her
‘unlikely lads’ to a level where they appear, for most of the show, a credible tap team.

Then there is Rodney Hrvatin, leading a well rehearsed on-stage, 12-piece orchestra, just right for the
style of music selected (some excellent trumpet work, though all the instruments shine at various
times).

With no dedicated music score of its own, “Hot Shoe Shuffle” borrows from a variety of sources. Though
light on story, the show’s aim is to showcase dancing and a menu of appropriate songs. It’s driven by
old man Max, played by veteran Max Rayner in a role which highlights his dancing abilities - but is not
always so kind to his singing.

The show’s tour de force however is lone leggy lady, Melanie Smith, as April. This girl can sing, dance
expertly and look delicious - even when she’s supposed to be botching the steps being taught to her by
the ensemble of lovable male hoofers. A fine chorus of backing female dancers and a slick vocal quartet
complete the cast list.

So often the bane of amateur theatre, the sound, by Tim Freedman of AllPro Audio, is well balanced, on
time and with no obvious squeaks – but Mike Phillips’ lighting has a way to go, though increasing
familiarity will ensure it is on time (not several seconds late, particularly at the end of scenes) and the
dimming speeds varied to suit better the different situations. Follow spot operators (Barb Sherwood and
Cory Schammer) don’t miss too much.

Costumes work extremely well, as do the bold poster-like sets and backdrops – many from Atkins’ own
production that played here some years ago.

The show needs more pace and by now that has probably been achieved. On Opening Night it started to
drag from the middle of Act 1 – and that was not just because of slow scene changes.

If you don‘t expect too much of the dancing men, “Hot Shoe Shuffle” offers a good night out. Catch it –
at the Arts, or on tour to Elizabeth and Renmark.

				
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