Australia's Tap Pack talks Tap, Swing and the Rat Pack
Creative Director and one of the founding members of the Tap Pack, Jordan Pollard talks with Theatre Thoughts about their upcoming performance at The Night at the Barracks in Sydney's North Head, Manly.
I am a big tap fan. Whenever I watch a musical and they break into a tap routine, I just lose it. Could you tell me a little about who the Tap Pack are?
The Tap Pack performs at the Sydney Opera House 2018.
About 2012-2013, myself, Thomas Egan and Jesse Rasmussen had been talking about an act that would encapsulate what we did which was tap. We’d all been tapping since we were knee height, about 8 or 9. We thought, could we combine that in a fun way? We always loved Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly, swing music, Fred Astaire, and everyone when it came to tap. We thought we could make something that went beyond just a corporate gig. So, we got some swing songs and starting put some tap into it, added jokes and songs, and then a kind of script to weave it all together. Then we got our friend Nigel Turner-Carroll on board to co-create and ended up directing for us as well, and it just turned into this two-act tap song, swing music with the style of the Rat Pack.
What kind of held it altogether was that we are great mates, we have our Aussie banter with each other. So, it’s kind of an American style art form, like a late-night Vegas show, but we’ve put our Aussie flavour to it and incorporated tap to it. So, you get this hybrid of Rat Pack with tap dancing and a bit of Australian larrikinism sprinkled through.
Where did the groups’ journey begin then?
Paramatta Riverside was our first show, then we performed at the Hayes Theatre, Chapel-of-Chapel in Melbourne and then in kind of grew, we performed it on cruise ships, which we still do. Then we took it to Asia, Germany a few times, London’s West End and just before Covid hit we were a couple of weeks into a U.S tour before we had to shut down. Pretty cool for a couple of Aussie mates who began in a studio, it’s really worked itself up to something that is so cool. Now we’re able to perform it again live and take it back around Australia which is our backyard.
Why the Rat Pack? Why did you focus on Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and centre everything around them?
I remember I used to love that music because my Mum was a dance teacher as well and so I grew up listening to all that style of music. My teenage years was watching old black and white clips of them, and it was always this sense of fun and spontaneity. I’m sure it was rehearsed but it didn’t look rehearsed at all, and the audience were always along for the journey with them. We thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could call that work?
People like Sammy Davis Jr. personified this amazing triple threat – a complete showman. He taps and he drums, and he sings, and it was just everything we wanted to be when we grew up. We really wanted to capture that flavour of best mates having fun on stage and hopefully the audience went with us. It’s a real pleasure to be on stage, not once have I thought it became stale or boring.
I think it’s always good when you have such a clear focus and energy for your piece. Is there a favourite number that you’ve developed that you always love coming back to?
It feels really personal because we all had a hand in creating it. At the moment there’s a great bit when one of the cast are on a cajon (rock box) and they tap out rhythms while we tap along to it, we jam and then incorporate songs kind of like the way a conductor would with a band.
We’ve taken some pop songs like Bruno Mars, Beyonce and Ed Sheeran that we’ve put to horns and “swungified” that. We have had audiences from like 8 to 80, people who used to tap, or wish they still could. Lots of older patrons who love the classics, and then there’s the husbands who get dragged along and they say, “Oh I didn’t think I’d love that as much as I did!”
You’ve kind of touched on it already but what can audiences expect from the Night at the Barracks performance?
It’s basically a two-hour jam-packed show! We sing, we tap, we jam, we joke, we make drinks on stage, we do percussion, we catch hats, we flip canes – we do as much as we can really. We just have a bunch of fun, and we hope the audiences will do the same. Not that tap ever left (in my opinion) but it’s a new way that beats and rhythm and tap can be incorporated in the show. It’s bringing it out in an interesting and new way. It’s the classics with a fresh twist!
Catch Jordan and The Tap Pack at the Barracks on the North Head, Manly on Sunday 11th September 2022. Tickets can be booked at nightatthebarracks.com.au
The Tap Pack Dressed in slick suits and equipped with sharp wit, The Tap Pack is “old school cool” from the new kings of swing. They are bringing their high energy, tap comedy show to this impressive line-up conjuring up a modern twist to the crooners and artists from the 50s through to the noughties! Featuring songs from Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr to Sheeran, Bublé and Beyonce, they mix slick humour, high energy entertainment and world class tap dance.
Armed with their lovable on-stage larrikinisms, they sing – they dance – they joke! They bring a new, invigorating energy to a timeless style that the whole family can enjoy.
A Night at the Barracks Discover Sydney’s newest unique outdoor venue set under the stars, The Barracks, North Head. Audiences will be entranced by the artistry of Australia’s biggest names in pop, indie, musical theatre, dance, rock, opera and jazz set in an enchanting location steeped in historical significance and natural beauty. Be among the first to experience this diverse and inspiring concert series in a truly magnificent setting perched high above Sydney Harbour. Night at the Barracks North Head.
Jordan Pollard Since he was half as tall, Jordan has been involved in numerous facets of the entertainment world. Jordan graduated from ED5 International in 2007 and most recently he could be seen as the "Preacher" in Violet and in the Australian and Japanese tour of Singin’ in the Rain (understudying the roles of “Don”, “Cosmo”, “Roscoe” and “Dialect Coach”).
Jordan made his musical theatre debut in 2008, performing in Guys and Dolls and went on to tour in 2010/11 with West Side Story playing "Big Deal" (understudying the roles of "Action" and “Riff"). He was a part of the Australian Tour of A Chorus Line performing as "Don" (understudying “Zach”) and was with the Australian Company of The Addams Family.
Shows with The Production Company include Chess, Pirates of Penzance and Singin in the Rain. Jordan was a featured cast member of Wayne Scott Kermond’s Candy Man show, he toured with Melinda Schneider in Doris – So Much More Then The Girl Next Door and was in Opera Australia’s Anything Goes (understudying “Moonface Martin”).
He also performed as “Princeton/Rod” in Avenue Q for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival where he was nominated for a Green Room Award for “Male in a Leading Role”.