National Tap Dance Day is May 25 and to celebrate, we’ve rounded up our absolute favorite tap dances from Broadway shows old and new. Did your favorite make the cut? If not, share yours in the comments!
Spamalot: Maybe it’s the catchy tune, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Maybe it’s the twirling umbrellas. Maybe it’s the absurdity of medieval soldiers singing a catchy tune while twirling umbrellas. Whatever the reason, this tap dance number from the musical adaptation of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail will always widen our grins and warm our hearts. But mostly widen our grins.
Follies: Tap dancing is tough enough but try doing it in heels, as a half-dozen of the cast members do in Stephen Sondheim’s musical about ex-showgirls. Soundheim’s original 1971 production won seven Tony Awards, including best choreography and best director. Numerous revivals and tours have starred showbiz luminaries such as Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin, Treat Williams and Fort Worth’s own Betty Buckley.
Something Rotten! This absolutely hilarious send-up and homage to Broadway, William Shakespeare and a bunch of other stuff features an unforgettable tap battle between Shakespeare and adversary Nick Bottom.
Nickelodeon’s The SpongeBob Musical: Yes, there’s a tap dance in The SpongeBob Musical – and yes, it’s fantastic. Those of you who saw the show at Bass Hall earlier this year know what we’re talking about. The impressive eight-minute tap dance, performed by the character Squidward, is even more impressive considering Squidward’s unique disposition in life: He has four legs.
La Cage Aux Foiles: “La Cage,” as it’s affectionately known by its legion of fans, helped break down barriers: It’s one of the first hit Broadway musicals to focus on the LGBTQ community. At the 1984 Tony Awards, it won six trophies, including best musical. The show ran for more than four years and spawned many tours and revivals.
Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: Tap dancing is difficult. Jumping rope is difficult. Put the two together and you have the supremely impressive number, Shaking the Blues Away. Holiday Inn lasted less than a year on Broadway but the show’s choreography did raise the eyebrows of Tony voters. The musical romp, based on the 1942 movie of the same name, received a Tony nom for best choreography.
Anything Goes: One of the oldest Broadway shows to be revived for modern audiences, Anything Goes dates back to 1934, when the original musical – with lyrics and music by Cole Porter – opened on Broadway. Set on an ocean liner, the screwball comedy contains several complex tap dance numbers that helped contemporary revivals of the show win numerous awards, including several Tonys.
Mary Poppins: Based on the hit 1964 film and series of books penned by P. L. Travers, the stage version of Mary Poppins was an eye-popping wonder. One of the show’s highlights was Step In Time, in which the film’s original chimney sweeps tap number was greatly expanded into an intricate tapestry of tap dancing, hand-clapping, broom-sweeping and trash can-banging. At one point, the actor playing Bert tap dances across the ceiling – upside-down. No wonder the show ran on Broadway for more than six years.
The Producers: The great Mel Brooks is responsible for one of the funniest musicals ever, The Producers, which, consequently, contains one of the coolest tap dance numbers ever, in which a group of “elderly, sex-starved widows” tap dance with their metal walkers. So, so funny.
A Chorus Line: Set on a bare stage, this landmark musical explores the lives of 17 dancers as they audition for roles in a Broadway musical. The musical-within-a-musical component made it a hit with critics and fans alike, but it’s the extravagant dance numbers, notably the show-stopping One, that keeps fans coming back for revivals. “The Tap Combination” is the only straight-up tap dance number in the show; it’s as simple as it is vital to the show’s storyline.
42nd Street: Classic Broadway at its finest, 42nd Street is one of the Great White Way’s most iconic shows. Based on a 1930s book and film of the same name, and full of lengthy, glamorous and showy tap dance numbers, the backstage musical won Tony Awards in 1981 for best musical and best choreography. Over the years, there have been several revivals and tours; the most recent tour came to Bass Hall in 2016.
The Tap Dance Kid: An early vehicle for actor Alfonso Ribeiro, who would later become known for a different style of dancing as Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Tap Dance Kid was a 1983 Broadway hit that ran for two years and was nominated for eight Tony Awards. It won for two: Hinton Battle won for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical and Danny Daniels won for best choreography. Start the above clip around 1:51 and you’ll see why. The show unintentionally foreshadowed even greater things to come: Ribeiro was later replaced in the show by a 10-year-old unknown, budding tap dance wizard Savion Glover.