Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
When you have performed in a particular show yourself, watching and reviewing said show can become personal. Knowing the script inside and having a perception on the characters you’ve played can either bring an additional enjoyment or an overly critical eye. I’ve performed in Stepping Out three times and played two roles. So it was always going to be personal this review. I’m glad to say this version of Stepping Out gave me the former and made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening out.
Written by Richard Harris this uplifting comedy originally premiered in the West End in 1984 starring Barbara Ferris and Marcia Warren, winning the prestigious Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy and enjoying extended runs both in the West End and on Broadway. Stepping Out has also been made into a musical, which became a film in 1991, starring Julie Walters, Liza Minnelli and Shelley Winters.
The play concerns eight individuals from disparate backgrounds and with differing motivations who attend the same weekly tap dancing class in a dingy North London church hall. Despite the students at first treating the classes as social occasions, and showing little co-ordination, they later develop a level of skill and cohesiveness. The dance routines are the background for the focus of the play, the relationship and interaction of different people.
Presented by Theatre Royal Bath Productions and the James Grant Group, Stepping Out is directed by Maria Friedman, designed by Robert Jones and choreographed by Tim Jackson with lighting design by Peter Mumford, sound design by Gregory Clarke and orchestrations by Christopher Walker.
Worth Stepping Out for?
This production has a superb cast and really feels as an ‘team’ piece. The characterisations are wonderful throughout. The kingpin that keeps the group together is dancing teacher Mavis. Formally a professional dancer she has found herself no longer gaining roles. We feel her struggle to make ends meet by holding dance classes. Taking on this role at incredibly short notice, as Tamzin Outhwaite injured herself, is Anna-Jane Casey. I have to say that when you read Casey’s bio it comes as no surprise, that if you didn’t know that she had stepped in just days before, you would be none the wiser. Her dancing goes without saying is technically spot on, with her acting perfectly in tune with Mavis’ character.
Sandra Marvin is a joy to watch, as full of fun Rose. Sylvia played by Natalie Casey truly shows what her role is all about. We can see that she really is all talk and money worries and being on the wrong side of the law or should I say the social? – are very real. All the cast are strong though from comedy in Nicola Stephenson’s Dorothy to drama in Lesley Vickerage’s Andy. Not forgetting our excellent ‘token’ man Dominic Rowan as Geoffrey. Who gave us the right amount of shyness and uncomfortable embarrassment with the need to feel part of something.
Stand Out Performances?
However it is both Amanda Holden and Tracy-Ann Oberman who for me totally steal the show as busybody Vera and Maxine respectively. Holden delightfully over the top only to crushingly bring you to realise the truth behind her need to be seen as the perfect wife. The harsh realisation of the fear of being replaced in affection for a younger model, and a return to a former life very evident and kudos goes to Holden for portraying Vera so well. Whilst Oberman also gives us a real depth of character in Maxine. You realise that her ballsy exterior actually is just a facade. It hides her insecurities and as the audience we were made to feel it and could relate.
Definitely worth stepping out for a ticket
This is a fun feel-good show with meaty characterisation and the transformation from a hopeless tap class to the finale is wonderful. I’ll be definitely Stepping Out again to see it, as this show was everything I hoped for in a West End production of a much-loved show.
VAUDEVILLE THEATRE, LONDON
404 Strand, London WC2R 0NH
Facebook: stepping out
First performance: Wednesday 1 March
Press Night: Tuesday 14 March, 7pm
Full performance schedule on www.steppingoutplay.com
Box Office: 0330 333 4814
Groups: 0330 333 4817
Access: 0330 333 4815
Ticket prices from £20