That much is sufficiently evident in his latest endeavor — “Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life,” playing at the Alliance Theatre in Midtown today through May 4.
The production being billed as a once-in-a-lifetime stage experience finds the Broadway legend waxing nostalgic about his life and career narrative. Hines also uses the time to pay tribute to late tap great/entertainer and brother Gregory Hines and their mother, Alma.
“One of the great tappers, if not the greatest, I ever saw was my brother,” said Hines. “[Honoring] him is how it sort of began. … The show has evolved into a love letter for my mother. She was the really the giant of my life.”
“Tappin’” also manages to be a beacon of remembrance for the singers who have inspired Hines — from Frank Sinatra to Lena Horne. Still, the production is just as much an homage to American tap itself, an art form predicated on skill and nuance as much as improvisation.
With the gregarious Hines — the candid straight shooter he is — guiding the ship, his Alliance show could be broken down as equal parts charm, wit and grit.
“The takeaway [for me] is exposure to greatness,” said director Jeff Calhoun. “You really get a musical time capsule here. Maurice is the last of the song and dance men and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Staying true to the notion of reaching/giving back to younger talent, Hines shares the spotlight with three up-and-coming cast-mates several decades his junior.
His co-stars include the Manzari Brothers — a Washington pair perhaps most recognizable for their stint on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
John and younger sibling Leo performed with Hines in “Tappin’s” recent run at the Arena Stage in Washington and previously in the 2010 production of “Sophisticated Ladies,” when he discovered them at ages 17 and 15.
Local tap dancer Leilani Negron, 10, rounds out the cast after having risen above the competition — along with understudy Maika Takemoto — via a crucible of auditions overseen by Hines himself in late February.
By handpicking the four, the show’s namesake also satisfies his own unforgiving “no mediocre talent around me” mandate.
“Tap-wise, they’re really the greatest I’ve seen today — they’re on par with Savion Glover,” said Hines of the brothers. “And the two young ladies we have are greatness.”
Contributing to the show’s convergence of sights and sounds, Hines will be backed by an all-female, nine-piece “powerhouse” ensemble, the Diva Jazz Orchestra.
Stories, songs and “smooth” choreography under the bright lights might be the best way to sum up the experience the show promises.
Said Hines: “My mother always said no matter what you do out there, the audience must leave there saying, ‘I had a good time, baby. I had a good time.’
“And, that’s what it’s about.”
IF YOU GO:
o What: "Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life"
o When: today through May 4
o Where: The Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown
o Tickets: start at $30
o Information: (404) 733-5000 or www.alliancetheatre.org/tappin