Choreographer, dancer, actor, director and Broadway legend Maurice Hines takes audiences through his amazing career in Tappin’ through Life, a song-and-dance celebration now running at Penn’s Landing Playhouse through Nov. 20.
Hines dedicates the show to his late younger brother, Gregory, the movie star and Tony award-winning actor, singer and dancer.
“A few years back, I read an article that failed to mention Gregory. I didn’t want that to happen again. I didn’t want his name to ever be forgotten,” Hines says.
The show is also an autobiographical timeline complete with photos from his mother’s scrapbook and lessons she taught to her two little boys, who began dancing at the ages of 5 and 3.
ldquo;As a tribute to my mother, the person who helped us through all the hard times, I show a photo of her at age 16 and sing You’re Just Too Marvelous For Words. My mother always told us, ‘You don’t count. The audience counts. They came to see you, so give them everything you got.’ ”
And so that’s just what her sons did.
“Gregory and I always understood and supported each other,” Hines recalls. “He was so laid back, so effortless, and he would always say that he never had to worry about the audience when we performed together because I would get them. Because I was relentless. That’s how we worked so well together.”
Over the years, they worked well with other performers — Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Judy Garland, to name a few. In his many dance numbers, Hines is sometimes joined by the Manzari Brothers, in their early 20s, as well as a rotating lineup of other skilled children, with music by the all-female Diva Jazz Orchestra.
ldquo;The Manzari Brothers remind me a little of myself and Gregory, but they have a very intricate style all their own, and the audience goes crazy over them.”
And, of course, they go crazy over Hines, who admits that with all the hats he wears, he prefers choreography.
“And whenever I get the chance, that’s what you’ll find me doing. When I’m in a room with dancers, I’m in heaven. Unlike actors, who want to know the motivation of the character, all dancers want is the next step. Nothing matters to them except the next step.”
Now in his 70s and still going strong, Hines says when you have to do eight shows a week, you can’t go hanging out every night.
“You have to live a very disciplined life, which I love. The theater brings that out in you. Look at Chita Rivera, still dancing at 82!” ••
Tappin’ Thru Life continues at the Penn’s Landing Playhouse, 211 S. Columbus Blvd., through Nov. 20. Call 855-HIT-SHOW.