Australians Jordan Pollard, Jesse Rasmussen and Thomas Egan were good friends who grew up immersed in jazz, ballet and tap classes and sharing a love of musical theater. One night in a Sydney bar, they began talking about a concept and wrote it down on a napkin. Their “aha!” moment in 2013: Combine The Rat Pack’s joie de vivre ambiance and style from 1960s Las Vegas — that is, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. cool — with what they learned over the years in dance. Mix in the fun banter these Aussies always had as friends, then kick it to the audience. Voila! The Tap Pack was born: five suave guys who sing, tap, wear snappy suits and joke with the audience, accompanied by their own four-piece “Rat Pack Bandits” orchestra (two horns, keys and drums). Directed and co-created by Nigel Turner-Carroll and produced by Kym Halpin, The Tap Pack will bring its modern-take homage to Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. The Advance spoke to Jordan Pollard by phone as the group was preparing to fly to its next concert.
Long Island Advance: Your show will be performed on Valentine’s Day weekend. I’m assuming it’ll be geared to romantic American Popular Standards with some contemporary mixed in?
Jordan Pollard: Yes. There were one of two things Frank Sinatra sang about and it was about falling in love or having his heart broken, so the program will be your classic love songs. We’ll sing ‘Me and My Shadow,’ but we’ll also slip in a little bit of Bruno Mars and Beyoncé. A lot of Big Band tracks are in there too as well as a cappella songs. The main thrust is to entertain. There isn’t too much in tap shows out there today — some think it’s old fashioned, so we inject a new energy and it’s two hours of nonstop.
I understand Jesse Rasmussen had been in Dein Perry’s ‘Tap Dogs’ and ‘Hot Shoe Shuffle’ and was known as a hip hop choreographer in ‘So You Think You Can Dance Australia.’ Were you and Thomas also in shows at the time you created The Tap Pack?
Jesse also worked on ‘Happy Feet’ with Savion Glover. I’ve been playing in musical theaters in Australia since I was 20. I was in ‘Guys and Dolls,’ ‘West Side Story,’ ‘A Chorus Line’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’ Thomas is a choreographer and has starred in ‘Tap Dogs,’ ‘Fame,’ and ‘The Boy from Oz.’ (The men met at auditions, dance classes or shows.) So we were all around musical theater besides also performing in corporate shows. But we wanted to perpetuate our own careers, and so we get to hire some of our talented friends. Sean Sinclair and Tom Struik are the other two in our group. When we decided to do this, we were from Queensland, Melbourne and Sydney, and it was in Sydney in 2013 that we crossed paths.
What attracted you to this genre?
My uncle is a musician, and my mother was a dance teacher who taught me how to dance. I remember on my 18th birthday my auntie bought me ‘The Rat Pack: Live at the Sands’ CD. I had just turned 18, and I thought it was kind of a weird gift for a teen at the time. It sat in my car for six months, and then I played it and fell in love. It became one of the most important gifts I could have received.
How do you stay shape for dancing? Tap is joyous and very physical.
It’s a bit of a weird mix of cardio — you do your dancing in short bursts; there’s five of us and four musicians on stage. We stretch every day, then (at the venue) we do sound checks, check out the floor; there’s an hour or so we’re practicing for the show. We roll out our muscles, and most of the guys have their thing — they warm up their voices. The show is spaced out, so everyone gets their highlight and it’s shared. So it’s about maintenance.
How does the show come together?
It’s a very collaborative process. We all add our chorography, and we pick our own songs. We’ll sit in a cafe, and we might put two songs together after someone comes up with one. No idea is a bad idea — just say it. We mix drinks on stage (yep, there’s a bar there). We have a medley with ‘The Lady Is A Tramp’ and mix it with a dance scene of ‘Luck Be a Lady.’ One of our role models is Gene Kelly, and his era had a lot of jazz/swing stuff. We’re now on a 40-city tour across the U.S., and we’re very lucky to be here. Last night we played in Tennessee (Clayton Center for the Arts in Maryville) and got a big standing ovation from over a thousand people there, and it’s something where you have to pinch yourself.