The Tap Dance Kid
A Musical in Two Acts, 15 Scenes. Book by Charles Blackwell. Based on the novel Nobody's Family Is Going to Change by Louise Fitzhugh. Music by Henry Krieger. Lyrics by Robert Lorick.
Broadhurst Theatre, New York: opened 21 December, 1983: transferred Minskoff Theatre 27 March, 1984: closed 11 March 1985 (total 669 perfs).
Roosevelt Island is a tram-ride away from Manhattan. William Sheridan, a successful attorney, lives there with his wife, Ginnie and their two children: 14 year old Emma, outspoken and overweight and longing desperately to become a lawyer, and 10 year old Willie who, contrary to his father's wishes, thinks of nothing but dancing. The musical opens on a typical morning with Ginnie preparing breakfast.
Later that day, Emma returns home from school in a characteristic snit. Ginnie's brother, Dipsey Bates arrives for a visit and soon, the kids are urging him to tell about the days when Ginnie, Dipsey and their late father, Daddy Bates performed as a trio. The number ends as William returns home from work. Finding his study in disarray. he cooly greets Dipsey, for whom he has little use. Thirty-three years old and he's a dancer, for heaven's sake! Dipsey exits leaving William to examine the childrens' report cards. He pays scant attention to Emma's exceptional grades, but is so disappointed by Willie's poor grades that he grounds the boy.
Three weeks later, Willie is frustrated because he hasn't been able to dance. I don't wanna be no lawyer, He tries to talk to his sister, but Emma has her own problems. Willie later expresses his true feelings and in a daring move, ventures alone to Manhattan, via tram, to find his Uncle Dipsey.
Dipsey is rehearsing his dancers for an industrial show for a convention of shoe buyers. Coincidentally, the number has been designed to showcase Dipsey's dancing and choreographic talents with which he hopes to impress the producers of an out-of-town Broadway tryout. Willie arrives during the rehearsal and is uncontrollably drawn into the number, dancing along with his uncle. Excited by his nephew's potential, Dipsey rushes the boy home to tell his parents the good news.
Dipsey's assistant, Carole is left to continue the rehearsal. As she puts the dancers through their paces, she reflects privately on her feelings for Dipsey.
Dipsey arrives on Roosevelt Island and breathlessly tells Ginnie and William of their son's dancing ability. William cuts him short, furious because Willie has disobeyed and especially because he has risked the danger of going to New York by himself. Seizing control of his family once again, William forbids Willie to see his uncle anymore. Willie runs out on the terrace, followed by Dipsey who tells the boy that, for a while, he'll have to dance inside himself. The Act One curtain falls on Willie, heartbroken, being comforted by his uncle.
Another breakfast. Willie hasn't danced for some time now. He's too quiet. He looks gray! An argument ensues at the table and William storms out. Emma accuses her mother of not asserting herself nor caring enough about her children. Ginnie accuses Emma of being exactly like her father.
Dipsey and Carole, now living together, wait in Dipsey's loft for word about the out-of-town tryout in Buffalo. Dipsey has just about given up hope when the phone rings. Willie has run off to the playground to be alone and Emma comes looking for him. Touched by his dilemma, she reaches out to him as a friend.
Ginnie comes to Dipsey's loft, confused and upset, not knowing
what to do about Willie. Dipsey tells her to let Willie try out
for a small part in his new show. Ginnie, knowing what the consequences
might be, refuses. Echoing Emma's earlier sentiments, Dipsey
accuses Ginnie of caring only about keeping her husband happy.
On her way home, alone on a deserted Manhattan street, Ginnie wonders what to do about her life with William.
She goes to Willie's bedroom, takes a deep breath, and tells him
about tomorrow's audition for Dipsey's show. Willie is beside
himself with happiness. Ginnie tucks him in and stays with her
son until he falls asleep.
Willie dreams a wonderful dream starring his grandfather. Daddy Bates floats into his room and dances for the boy.
The following day. Willie auditions for the show. The bug of finally being on a stage propels Willie into o technicolor fantasy in which he is surrounded by his idols, all the great dancers: Fred Astaire, Bojangles, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, Dipsey and Daddy Bates — all of them, dancing with him.
Willie gets the part, and Ginnie takes him and Emma to Dipsey's loft where they wait for William. William arrives and when Ginnie tells him the news, he is outraged. Emma is the first to stand up to her father. Her speech, coupling the courtroom savvy of a seasoned professional with the vulnerability of a hurt child, is a powerful indictment against William for alienation of affection and loss of aid to dependent children, Ginnie then tells William that things can't go on the way they are. You can't make all of the decisions ... all of the time! William explodes and in a frightening display, pours out his deep-rooted anger and anguish.
William, alone now in front of Dipsey's building, waits, not knowing what will happen. Emma comes out and she and her father finally reach an understanding. Then Willie appears. He tells his father he's not taking the part in Dipsey's show, gently adding, but someday... ! Then Ginnie comes out, followed by Dipsey. The air is cleared; compromises are made. And although some of their dreams may be slightly shattered, another day dawns and the family is intact. They are, after all, a first class act!
Cast (in order of appearance):
Little Rio Dancers and New Yorkers
- Another Day - Ginnie, Emma, Willie
- Four Strikes Against Me - Emma
- Class Act - Ginnie, Dipsey, Daddy Bates
- They Never Hear What I Say - Emma, Willie
- Dancing Is Everything - Willie
- Crosstown - Willie, New Yorkers
- Fabulous Feet - Dipsey, Carole, Dancers
- I Could Get Used to Him - Carole, Dancers
- Man in the Moon - Dipsey
- Like Him - Emma, Ginnie
- Someday - Emma, Willie
- My Luck Is Changing - Dipsey
- I Remember How It Was - Ginnie
- Lullabye - Ginnie
- Tap Tap - Daddy Bates, Willie, Dipsey
- Dance If It Makes You Happy - Willie, Dipsey, Daddy Bates, Carole, Dancers
- William's Song - Wiliiam
- Class Act (Finale) - The Family
For a subsequent national tour, substantial changes were made to the book and score as follows: Production re-directed by by Jerry Zaks.
New Act 1, Scene 1: Dipsey's Comin' Over - Willie
New Act 1, Scene 2: Rehearsal Studio: High Heels - Dipsey, Carole, Dancers
Something Better, Something More - Dipsey
Act 2, Scene 2 and 3 reversed
New Act 2, Scene 4: Rehearsal Studio
- Dipsey's Vaudeville - Dancers, Dipsey, Carole
- I Remember How It Was (moved from Scene 3)
Former Scene 4 now Scene 5
New Act 2, Scene 6 (replacing former Scenes 5 and 6): A Theatre.
Scenes and Settings
The action takes place at the present time in New York City's Roosevelt Island and Manhattan.
Scene 1: Dining Room.
Scene 2: Dipsey's Loft.
Scene 3: William's Study.
Scene 4: Playground.
Scene 5: Manhattan.
Scene 6: The Fabulous Westway Hotel Ballroom.
Scene 7: William's Study.
Scene 8: Terrace.
Scene 1: Dining Room.
Scene 2: Playground.
Scene 3: Dipsey's Loft.
Scene 4: Willie's Bedroom.
Scene 5: Manhattan.
Scene 6: Dispey's Loft.
Scene 7: Street.
Original Broadway Cast Recording - TER 1096