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The Tap Pack: Interview with Jordan Pollard
For once I have to say, ‘I am Bummed’ for I am in the wrong geographical P, because Parramatta (and NOT Paris) is currently where the hottest show will be featured. That show- The Tap Pack, which references the [in]famous Rat Pack from ‘60’s Vegas, which included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Dean Martin.
I’d like to report that this blog was the result of hours of hard labour but I have to be honest, I threw questions at Jordan Pollard and he came back to me with rapid fire honest and articulate responses that needed no editing.
So here goes…
How long have you guys been together?
We have all been together for years. I met Jesse and Tommy about 7 years ago. We all met doing dance class, at auditions or working. For example, Jesse and Tommy just came off tour with Tap Dogs. I used to live with Dion.
Whose idea was it for this show? How did it come about?
The idea was a slow burn, Jesse, Thomas and I put it together. It came about through talking over a few beers and it started to develop. The idea for Tap Pack has been around a year. I guess it was always brewing underneath, the idea of the rat pack was to have friends together, pooling their talents into something they love to do, and we just needed a great way of making that happen.
Do you all have choreographic input?
Jesse and Tommy have been working together and they manage the bulk of the actual tap dance here as I will look from out front and direct the choreography to tweak it. We have all had a hand in the shows creation; we wanted a collaborative effort from the start, so the rehearsal room has had a lively atmosphere. Everybody in the cast has helped with ideas along the way, we want to utilise their talents too because all the guys have fantastic minds.
Can you explain the reference or what you know/have drawn from The Rat Pack?
The Rat Pack evokes a certain style of charm, class and cheek. The three C’s. Slick suits, crooning voices, and an air of ease with an exclusive boy’s club feel. They had a lot of creative licence with how they went about their business, and were famous for being themselves. I think that was the appeal for us.
Do you think you could share some insight into your characters, in life and possibly in relation to the actual Rat Pack? – Sounds naff but I was watching and you guys have different styles. e.g., one guy has this eurythmic opening with a stomp clap combination that has a slightly Hispanic flavour, while some of you are tighter in execution and some looser… remember, try not to give too much away.
So in the show Jesse is the leader of the group- the Frank Sinatra; the chairman of the board. With Jesse’s skill set and ambition in real life, he is a leader among us guys, he is an entrepreneur and has a strong character.
When I was writing the show, I wanted to create really specific characters around the men I already knew. For example: So Smokey is the strong silent lady-killer type, he has a more sensual Latin feel (as u can see on the video) and is strong and brooding.
Then again you could look and see the guy who gets picked on, the young energetic, joker aka a Sammy Davis Junior. I could go on forever but the comparison in that we have a leader, a joker, a mysterious one, the stooge; the guy who gets picked on and the older, worldly man. Every guy has a personality trait that is totally his own and can relate to the Rat Pack.
Is there any dialogue- live or recorded? Will you be referencing the Rat Pack with images?
There is dialogue, interwoven in a mixture of dance and song, the whole show runs for an hour and tells the story of 5 friends and the trials of tour and trust. We don’t have any images of the actual rat pack in the show but, we all have suits and a style that pays homage to the 1960’s in the way we look/dance. We have also added a fresh energy to it to make it our own. Rohan Browne owns a bow tie business and he has styled the guys with his personalised bow ties and pocket chiefs (his handsome self).
Is the sound for this one live or recorded?
There is a 6 piece live band called “The Tap Pack Bandits”. All sound is live and we have a jam where the tap dancers and the band “battle”. It’s completely live and spontaneous.
The brass/live band song was very synonymous with the Rat Pack, they always used live musicians where possible. We wanted to keep this going. There is nothing better than tapping while others make music live with you. We have taken old songs and given them a new energy eg: reworking the charts so they sound different. We have a few popular songs from the present that we have ‘swingified’. A good place to find references for this type of music is via Google. Look up Richard Cheese. He is a lounge singer that reworks popular material in a swing feel.
In the show there is a mixture of old songs, new songs swingified and then there are instrumental tracks that are a big band but have been written in the last 10 years, kind of a new jazz sound.
The music is a mixture of old and new, much alike to us boys.
What’s the age range of you guys?
Tapping is so aerobic; can you compare it to another sport in intensity?
Tapping is hard. Mostly, it hurts the legs, obviously, but, if I could compare it to a different sport, it’s kind of like skipping, or maybe boxing. It requires such specific movements at such a pace that your leg muscles can cramp and become fatigued pretty quick. It can require a lot of cardio fitness.
Where do you live? Not a stalker enquiry, just, where do you hail from?
We hail from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. But we have all resided in Sydney at one point. Again, we met through touring shows and going where the work was.
Do you all work in musical theatre outside this project?
We all have worked in musical theatre, so performing in a theatre was the obvious choice and it matches the feel of the show. I am currently in The Addams Family musical, Rohan has just finished Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum, Dion Bilios has done Jersey Boys. We are all working actors when we aren’t hanging out.
Do you perform/practice any other types of dance, music etc.? How, if at all, has this affected the show? How do you bring those skills to the forefront?
We all do different styles of dance: we grew up with jazz, ballet & tap. Then hip-hop started as we got older. Some have touched on tango, popping, locking and contemporary but, every class or show you do makes you experience something new, and this, you add to your skill bank.
A lot of the guys play music as well, piano, guitar and bass and they write and perform their own material. It is a really talented bunch of guys. It’s so great that we can draw from their talents and create something that will always be unique and targeted towards getting the best out of everybody. Some guys have a gift for comedy, some have a faster style of tap, and some have better voices, so it’s just a matter of tailoring the show to suit the character and performer playing them (everyone gets to show off ha ha).
Who have you pitched the show to? Not many people nowadays would know about the Rat Pack, well the original one you’re referencing. Why the fascination?
I think the appeal of making the show reminiscent of the Rat Pack, was to inject class back into live entertainment. We really want to showcase individual flair, different from a tribute show.
We want the older generation to remember the rat pack era and then discover something new, while the younger generation get to experience something they probably haven’t experienced before. I mean, we are 5 Australian guys, who are still influenced by legends nearly 50 years after they were big. For me that has always seemed like an amazing legacy to leave behind. We use the word inspire a lot. We are not a carbon copy, but are inspired to see that this style of entertaining still has a platform, in a re-invigorated way.
Catch Tap Pack this week at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres.
Image Credit: John Fick