Tap is back in a brand new show – Two Hits and a Ms!
Original cast member of Hot Shoe Shuffle and Tap Dogs, Christopher Horsey has sung and tap danced his way around the world from Broadway to The West End. In this new song and dance act, Horsey brings to life all the famous songs and tap dances from the stage and screen. The trio, comprised of Horsey alongside Bobby Fox and Nicole Melloy, will dazzle with their masterful footwork and vocal prowess alongside a fabulous live band.
The show premieres as part of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Morning Melodies, Melbourne’s monthly, feel-good concert series in Hamer Hall. The 2022 program marks 37 years of sensational entertainment, and is filled with a stellar line-up of music theatre, cabaret, opera, jazz and dance.
With Two Hits and a Ms just a few weeks away, we chat with Chris about all things tap!
Can you tell me a bit about your background with tap? (When did you start, training, goals, dreams, etc.)
Chris: My mum, Kay Horsey, had a big dance school on the Gold Coast called Coastal Dance Theatre for 35 years. Mum and I would watch golden Hollywood era movies and, on the weekends, I was inspired by The Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Gene Kelly and especially Fred Astaire.
As a 12-year-old, mum entered me in a worldwide tap dance competition called The Fred Astaire International Tap Championship. I was selected as one of five finalists from all over the world to compete for the grand prize at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I won 1st prize for my age group and if it wasn’t for the fact that he happened to be too ill to attend that night, I would’ve been presented my award by Fred Astaire himself. This was a shame more for my Mum than for me, because I know mum would’ve been thrilled to absolute pieces to not only be in the same room as Mr Astaire, but to watch her son, who she trained, receive an award in his name.
I moved to Sydney at the age of 17 to join the ensemble of the spectacular tap dance musical 42nd Street. It was there where I met Dein Perry. During that time, Dein and a couple of us wondered why we had to always wear suits and dress in formal clothes when we tap danced? This is the simplified explanation of what was to become, after a series of workshops and developments, the worldwide smash Tap Dogs. But not before David Atkins saw what we were doing and wrote Hot Shoe Shuffle, another international tap dance success story, also one I happened to be a part of from the early beginnings.
The feature film, Bootmen, which I had the opportunity to star alongside my good mate, Adam Garcia and Sam Worthington, was the pinnacle of what I like to call the great Australian tap dance revolution. The dream was always about extending tap dance to new audiences and inspiring a new generation of tap dancers. A goal I am certain was achieved.
What inspired you to put together Two Hits and a Ms?
Chris: I think audiences have forgotten how tap dance can be presented. Over the (clears throat) decades, I have learnt how to compliment tap dance with the right songs, the right cast and some simple theatrical effects and devices, so the tap dancing itself is not unsupported. This show is far from sing, tap, applause, repeat. Also, it has been too long since we’ve seen a strong, new and exciting female singer-tap dancer on our stages and just you wait until our Nicole Melloy takes to the stage.
How did you put the show together?
Chris: In 2005, I was in London workshopping a tap show at Sadlers Wells for my dear friend and collaborator, Adam Garcia, when I got a phone call from Bobby Fox. I’ll never forget sitting waiting for a train while Bobby asked me what I was doing and that we should perform together someday, somehow. While Bobby and I did get the chance to work together as the comedy duo, Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet in Guys & Dolls for The Production Company a few years ago, we haven’t had a chance to really let loose. While I was dreaming up the set list for Two Hits and a Ms, the strong memory of that phone call from Bobby landed on me like a tonne of bricks and I called Bobby and said, “we better do this thing while we still can!”
Choosing Nicole was an absolute no brainer. Nicole was in Legally Blonde with my wife Lucy Durack and was the understudy for Paulette. I happened to see a performance when Nicole was on for that role and she absolutely sang that hell out of that song, ‘Ireland’. Nicole was also in 42nd Street with Lucy and I (again for The Production Company) so I knew that Nicole knew her way around a shuffle. The repertoire was an exercise in finding famous songs that are associated with tap dance but also ones that can support some interesting, creative, theatrical effects and tricks, as you’ll see when you come to the show.
What is the biggest misconception about tap dancing?
Chris: The biggest misconception about tap dancing is that it’s a dying art. Audiences are also unfamiliar with tap dancing used as a conduit for storytelling as I endeavour to pursue it in my upcoming show Peta & The Wolf – A Tap Dancing Adventure at Chapel Off Chapel in late April.
Why should audiences come and see the show?
Chris: After what we’ve all been through, Two Hits and a Ms will literally tap your troubles away. This is also a good opportunity to support independent performances. And the songs, oh the songs, are hits for a reason, especially when you hear them sung by these fine voices, who will ne supported by a killer seven-piece band. It’s not too much tap dancing either. I know an audience can’t be slammed over the ears with percussion, that’s why Two Hits and a Ms is the perfect blend of vocals, music, dance, and enough tap dancing to satisfy.
For tickets and more information, visit the Arts Centre Melbourne website.