From Woad’s to Wonderland

A Whole New World.
A Whole New World. // Folake Ogunmola

Welcoming its audience to a psychedelic wonderland, Yale’s only tap dancing team, Yale Taps, mashed up neon lights, fluorescent costumes, Disney-themed music and the old-fashioned sound of tap shoes striking a stage, to give their audience “Tappily Ever After.”

Contrary to my expectations of watching an easy to grasp Disney-like show, “Tappily Ever After” has a roller coaster ride of a story, with twists and turns that can leave you falling off your chair — literally. The show begins with two disgruntled Yale students looking for Toad’s. While navigating the streets of New Haven — and failing to find their destination — they magically wander into Disneyland. From there, a pair of Disney princesses takes over and the Yale students fade into the background. The princesses speak to the audience, giving the barest context for each dance before they begin. Between numbers, music from old Disney animated films is played, but the dances themselves happen to the beats of more modern hip-hop.

The show, then, becomes a blend of chaos and extravagance, with a backdrop of brilliant lights and flamboyant dance moves — most based in tap, but executed with energy. As the characters were frequently teleported between New Haven and Disneyland, I too oscillated between states of confusion and delight. I quickly lost track of the plot, but that didn’t matter beyond a point, because I was having fun.

Towards the end of the show, Toad’s Place transforms into Toad’s Palace. Our two Yale students, dressed in sweatpants and sweatshirts, forget all about their ordinary Wednesday night rave, and happily mingle with some really extraordinary Disney characters. Snow White, Minnie Mouse and Aladdin all make appearances, and join together for an exuberant curtain call.

A highlight of the plot, however, was when a Yale student and a Disney princess discover an abandoned shoe onstage. The quest to find the right foot for the shoe leads into a hysterical interplay of tap dancing and comedy. The princess tries on the shoe, and it doesn’t fit. The Yale student insists the shoe is hers, but, before she gets a chance to try it on, they lead into a tap dancing number, forgetting the shoe in the process.

Still, telling a story was less the point than giving a venue for players’ talents. At one point, the audience was brought in to identify dances by the Disney characters. My audience didn’t prove the best guessers, but the solos were fitting showcases for each individual. In a show dominated by group numbers, getting the chance to focus on one performer at a time performer was a welcome change.

But even in these moments, you could never forget that the show was a group effort, a summation of each individual’s skill and group coordination — especially with the show’s lighting. The players’ shoes and heels hit the floor in unity, and clacking of their shoes was in near-perfect synchrony with the blend of colors on stage. The colors — red and black, blue and red, black and blue — danced across the stage, adding drama and charm to the story. There was a childlike innocence to the performance as a whole, the way you ended up most focused on pretty colors and simple rhythmic sounds. It was a primarily visual and auditory delight.

While hard to make sense of, “Tappily” doesn’t claim to offer more than it does: a getaway from the ordinary. So walk into the Off Broadway Theater and let the Yale Taps tap you away from your monotonous existence. Just don’t try to make too much sense of it: This is just imagination.

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