I cut it really close this year–a lot went on to where I didn’t think I’d even get to see the show this year…and considering the tour have never OPENED in New Orleans (I know the Season 6/7 mashup was the first to show in New Orleans but I don’t remember it being the FIRST show) I really wanted to have that experience. Lack of availability to funds for the VIP Experience and to my buddy who usually goes to these things with me had me disappointed, and when you work at the station that airs the TV show and STILL can’t get ticket connections the writing’s pretty much on the wall. Still, I gave a last-ditch, 11th hour effort and went straight to the theater box office….and walked out with a ticket for a REALLY good seat that didn’t cripple my budget. Yay me!
MAJOR HUMUNGOUS SPOILER ALERT: I will be revealing the swing dancers and describing the show in minute detail from beginning to end. So if you’re going and DON’T want to be surprised, read on. If you want to experience the show fresh, bookmark me and come back later. I’ll give you some time….
Everybody here that still wants to be? Okey-dokey!
The show opened with the Broadway number from the finale–Dr. Jazz choreographed by Warren Carlyle and danced by all 13 cast members (if you don’t stalk Twitter and Instagram the swings for this tour are Teddy Coffey, Emily James and Marcquet Hill), followed by the brief introduction of our Top 10 dancers and a quick greeting from Season 11 champion Ricky Ubeda before the full throttle pace of Act 1 got underway. And I can’t think of a better way to start off my evening than with a solo from my future ex-baby daddy, Emilio Dosal. (My husband knows I’m drooling–he’s seen him dance with IaMme, so I get a pass.)
The numbers this year appears to be grouped in choreographers’ samplers, so it stands to reason that Tour director Mandy Moore’s work is up first. After a video introduction the numbers begin in rapid succession, beginning with the girls’ group My Immortal, followed by Foolish Games–originally performed on the show by Serge Onik and Carly Blaney, it was danced by Teddy Coffey and Emily James. (At least I think it was Emily; it may have been Jacque LeWarne. Those of you with better seats and eyesight feel free to correct me.) Last in the Mandy trilogy–and a big surprise to me–was the Earth Song piece she did for Michael Jackson week. Jessica Richens reprises her spot but is partnered with Zack Everhart for the Tour. He does a fairly good job with this; filling Will Wingfield’s shoes is no easy task.
A quick change in pace with a choreo how-to moment from Nappytabs–there is a DANCE MOVE called the YOLO, y’all….I can’t…. Anyway, I recognize the move from a certain hip-hop routine and, sure enough, Emilio is seated on his pharaoh’s throne for Get Low awaiting his pet snake–which for the purposes of this Tour is one Tanisha Belnap. Good choice, as she’s definitely got the height to match Jasmine Harper….and fortunately, also has the swag. That costume needs some taking in, as it’s really loose in the hips and not very “snakeskin-like,” but I’ll attribute some of that to the quick costume changes that are going to be necessary as the kids roll along. A solo break from Zack (speaking of quick changes) as he gives us a bigger taste of the rapid-fire taps he offered on the Hollywood stage, and then it’s Sonya Tayeh’s turn to gush on the kids and the season. Her tour offerings include the jazz What You Need from Tanisha and Rudy Abreu, Latch–another number original to Serge and Carly but performed by Emilio and Jessica (that boy’s contemporary is really coming up!), and Europe After The Rain, Zack’s tour de force contemporary performance assisted by Tanisha.
Next choreographer up is Spencer Liff, and I have to say, the routines of his I loved I totally did not expect to see on Tour mostly because of the heavy prop factor. Yet, Jessica and Zack get to play on the stairs at Hernando’s Hideaway, Casey Askew gets to break Bridget Whitman’s heart (instead of Kathryn McCormick’s) in Maybe This Time, and (big surprise–no sarcasm in that at ALL), Valerie Rockey and Ricky coming swinging in on a rainbow with I’ve Got The World On A String. Having Spencer describe all of the fears and pitfalls this dance had in rehearsal did NOT reassure me, even though the kids pulled it off brilliantly….I was holding my breath the entire number.
Solo time for Tanisha–one of maybe two sections of ballroom in the entire show this year–and then Emilio and Bridget in the Ray Leeper jazz Long Road To Hell….which is an interesting and serendipitous segue into the Stacey Tookey portion of the program, which begins with Ricky’s Angels duet, performed on stage with Jessica. They are followed by Take It Easy, Rudy’s week 1 routine with Carly performed with Valerie, and the Michael Jackson inspired She’s Out Of My Life–one of my favorites from that week and Tanisha’s chance to reprise with Casey as the crooner this time.
Quick mood break with a delightful pointe solo from Jacque and another routine I thought wouldn’t make it to Tour but should have–Bridget’s Bollywood Disco Disco Khisko. That number had so much energy and fun on the show, and I was really happy to see it on Tour. Naturally, such a fast-paced, high-energy number calls for the most megwatts in the cast, so it’s absolutely no surprised that Rudy won this lotto. What WAS a surprise was how they pulled this next montage together, as Tanisha, Bridget AND Rudy had such quick changes to get back out. They got a brief video and set change break so that the other famous set of stairs could come out–come on, two tappers ended up in the top FOUR…did you honestly expect them NOT to have Valerie and Zack come out and do Sing? Amazing as always–and another heart-stopper, because I believe Valerie had a small slip on the stairs where she had to put her hand down to steady herself. However, that did NOT stop her from slaying this yet again. That set the pace to keep the high upbeat energy going into Rudy and Tanisha’s Broadway number Sing, Sing, Sing (part 2), Bridgilio’s Happy jive, and Ricky’s cheeky Bossa Nova Baby–with yet another neck-breaking costume change for Tanisha. Y’all that girl was busy for the whole of Act 1. But we couldn’t let Ricky and Tanisha have ALL the fun, as Valerie, Zack, Bridget and Emilio joined in with them for a good part of that number. It looks good as a sextet, though I AM glad Mandy didn’t have all six of them on the floor trying that tangled up leg thingy. It looked complicated enough for Ricky and Tanisha, who had a narrow strip of stage between the front edge and the stairs to knock it out. Y’all DID that.
Still moving through Act 1 (yes, we are STILL in Act 1) with Casey’s solo, which gives us yet another quick change as Zack and Ricky bring out their regal thugly swag for their Two Kings hip-hop routine, The Antidote. The pace slows a little here with the first of only two full original pieces in this year’s Tour–a sextet to American Idol champion Caleb Johnson’s Fighting Gravity. Bridget, Casey, Marcquet, Jessica, Ricky and Jacque move beautifully across the stage in this one, which moves into Tanisha and Rudy again in their sultry Seduces You contemporary, and then finally moves into the Act 1 closer, a slightly remixed version of the group contemporary Take Me To The River. Because the piece is so laid back even with its driving downbeat, I was a little off-put by this being the cap to the first half–until Tanisha and Ricky (could’ve been Marcquet–it’s hard to write in the dark and look at the stage at the same time) busted out a quick cha-cha section and the guys added a little bit of hip-hop on the end. This was one of my lukewarm pieces when it was done on the show, and the lack of camera movement stole a little of the visual zing in person–but the end tweaks made me appreciate it a lot more.
Act 2 begins and another of my wish list pieces begins–the Pharside/Phoenix group piece How It’s Done. Having been a Top 18 number, I had squashed the hope of seeing this reimagined on Tour…and even discovering Marcquet, who danced the black King to Emilio’s white one, was a Tour swing didn’t revive that hope. That number, if nothing else, was worth my full price of admission. There was so much going on it that number I assume all of the kids danced a part of it–I am still trying to figure out how all of that went down with Zack and Ricky coming out to perform the Phillip Chbeeb hip-hop Sail. If you thought I was happy about the previous piece, the show could have stopped right after this number and I would have been completely satisfied. (A little backstory: I had tickets to the SYTYCD Tour in Grand Prairie for Season 5, the year Phillip was a contestant. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wound up having to sell my tickets and miss the show–which judging from the YouTube clips I scoured the Internet for, was EPIC. My husband is STILL in the doghouse for making me miss the show, but getting to at least see Phillip’s WORK in person takes a link out of his chain.) Rounding out this hip-hop section is Emilio and Bridget’s first number together, Luther Brown’s Work, and Tanisha and Rudy’s Good Kisser from Dave Scott. A slight mood shift here into another Sonya Tayeh two-fer: Ricky and Jessica’s Vow and the group piece Broken.
After Bridget dazzles us with her solo, it’s Travis Wall’s turn in the spotlight. Beginning with the “Equality” piece choreographed for the Top 4 to Wind Beneath My Wings, we go from there to the Bridget and Emilio dark contemporary to The Leaving Song, and then Jessica’s turn with Robert Roldan in When I Go, with Zack once again filling some big All-Star shoes.
Next we get a quick, powerful, faint-inducing solo from Rudy (some really lucky girl in the front section stage left went home with the shirt he took off mid-dance and tossed off-stage) and a hip-hop break from Jessica and Marcquet, performing the Nappytabs U Got Me Up hip-hop they affectionately dubbed “Bus Stop Booty.” These kids are fearless–following well-loved All-Stars is a big enough task, but embracing it AND rising to the challenge? They mean business.
From here we go into the Stacey Tookey section, spotlighting two of her pieces: Casey’s All-Star contemporary with Makenzie Dustman Over You, danced with Jacque; and the Top 14 contemporary vision of Heaven to the appropriately titled Last Moment. This number is so much more striking in person, although the lighting and backdrop brought more Purgatory than Heaven to my mind. Though that may well have been her vision….
A second brief video from Nakul Dev Mahajan (which leads me to believe some last-minute shuffles were made to the dance order to accommodate a better flow) has him gushing about the inclusion of all of the Bollywood numbers in the Tour. While not totally accurate (as the Jessica/Valerie duet from the finale was not among them), it did include most of them, as this was the entrée for Valerie and Ricky’s routine to Dilliwaali Girlfriend. An atypical Tour move has two swing dancers spotlighted–Teddy and Emily get to reprise their week 2 hip-hop from Dave Scott to Ed Sheeran’s Don’t. Just as I was marveling at the improved swag and more sedate costume change, I am suddenly blinded by the next segue. The group hip-hop Bang Bang was way too well received for me not to expect it to be on tour, but with the strobes, blacklights and neon EVERYTHING, I should have brought my shades. Good LORD that number was loud–and then the music started.
Winding down to the end as the first of our Top 2 is up for a solo–Valerie finally comes out with her magic red taps on and dazzled the crowd. I’m only SLIGHTLY disappointed she chose her Dance With Me Tonight solo over the eponymous Valerie she did for finale….but only slightly. The girl’s magic no matter what she taps out. Following that is what I suppose were the three biggest crowd favorites but is really the Travis Wall Show, take two (and I’m not complaining AT ALL because I loved all three of these as well): a restaged version of the boys’ group Wave, followed by the stealthiest quick change from Casey I’ve ever seen to join Jessica in the “First Kiss” number Like Real People Do, and the group number ‘Til The Love Runs Out. Ricky fans might be disappointed, as he’s not dancing this on Tour–that part was subbed out quite brilliantly by my papi Emilio–I mean, he REALLY did a great job with Ricky’s original part. However, they get to get over it really quick, as Ricky’s solo immediately follows…hence the substitution. And he dances with just as much joy, energy and passion as in the first number.
For our finale and last original Tour piece, the kids bring out some Mickey/Bring It On video realness and channel Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, a fun little number that is an appropriate enough choice since Taylor had enough SYTYCD alums in the video to start an alternate tour. Yeah, there’s dance technique in there but this is the one number that allows to kids to just be themselves and let loose. I think we finally have this show format down to a science where I can no longer expect the encores of tours past…which is disappointing as a longtime fan but understandable considering how much they’re now able to pack into a show and the speed with which the kids have to be in their places. I mean look back, y’all–there might have been seven whole minutes out of a solid hour Tanisha was NOT on stage in Act 1, and Zack wasn’t that far behind her with his changes, either.
With the exception of the one slip on the stairs in Sing, I didn’t see too many first show hiccups, though each dancers assured us there were some. Considering this was not only their first big show of the Tour but for many of them, their first big show EVER, I think they did an amazing job. That’s not to say I wasn’t left with a few disappointments–the biggest being that in putting together the show, Mandy Moore completely forgot about Teddy’s tap skills. When that boy Instagrammed he was going to be on Tour I had my hopes all set on a Piano Man duet with him and Zack. I think a YouTube video of that in the off-time is owed us. Also, a smidge more ballroom would have been nice–Tanisha’s solo and the Happy jive notwithstanding, the only other bit was the 32 counts snuck into Take Me To The River? Rudy’s cha-cha to Maps, Jessica and Marcquet’s foxtrot, even Ricky and Valerie’s Viennese waltz were RIGHT THERE, man….. I’m EXTREMELY surprised that Turn Down For What? didn’t make the final cut….I can deal with it, given what else did make it, but I really thought that one was a given. And of course, I’m just not gonna be happy that I didn’t get to see my two boos do Night Shift in person–I got hugs from both of them, so I’ll let that slide.
So that ends another season…and I got to be there first this time. Not a bad deal. And if someone wants to bless me with tickets to another show so I can just be a fan, I wouldn’t be mad at that at ALL….. 😀
UPDATE: Carly Blaney fans don’t fret–according to her Instagram account she was a little under the weather for the New Orleans show. But she’s clearly feeling better now and ON THE TOUR!