Touring – reviewed at Chichester Festival Theatre
Transfers to West End’s Vaudeville Theatre – 4 March-17 June 2017
Guest reviewer: Sarah Miatt
Stepping Out by Richard Harris has long been a firm favourite performed by amateur theatre groups up and down the country. It started off as the play in the 1980’s followed by a film starring Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters in 1991 and then subsequently a reincarnation as a musical in 1996. The story of a local adult tap class and the lives of the people who attend it strikes a chord with everyone who watches it.
Director Maria Friedman’s version of this well-loved play took it back to its 1980’s roots. Chichester Festival Theatres in the round setting lent itself beautifully to this piece being transformed entirely into a grimy church hall. The set understated and well used making it look extremely realistic. Use of blue lighting and slowed down music showed the passing of time very effectively. The sound flawless we heard taps, which changed to rain battering the window, to illustrate the change in day to perfection.
Stepping Out is very much an ensemble piece, no individuals character can be classed as the lead. It is clear that this ensemble are very comfortable working together. At times it really felt like you were a fly on the wall rather than watching a play. The lines were conversational and natural although occasionally eclipsed by the audience laughter.
Amanda Holden as Vera was very funny. Her comic timing perfect and her thinly veiled insults to the rest of the cast had the audience crying with laughter and gasping with disbelief. Class teacher Mavis (Tamzin Outhwaite) was wonderfully believable and her dance solo really gave her a chance to shine. Nicola Stephenson was very enthusiastic and keen as civil servant Dorothy whilst her hilarious dance moves delighted.
The very staid and serious Mrs Fraser played by Judith Barker, was hilarious with her facial expressions speaking as much as her voice. Rose Keegan as Andy was just heartbreaking going from painfully shy and awkward to complete breakdown over the course of the show. Larger than life Rose (Sandra Marvin) was fun, cheerful, and a pleasure to watch. She lit up the stage with every appearance and Jessica-Alice McCluskey made a very successful professional debut as kind-hearted student nurse Lynne.
Whilst Dominic Rowan as only man Geoffrey was wonderfully awkward and embarrassed by all the girl talk going on around him. Despite this being an ensemble show it really belongs to Angela Griffin as Sylvia and Tracy-Ann Oberman as Maxine. These often slightly overlooked characters completely came to life in the hands of these talented actors with Oberman showing a very touching side to the brassy Maxine and Griffin making Sylvia very real and hilariously funny in equal measure.
With the long list of some of Britain’s best acting talent on stage and impressive production team this show could not fail to be a triumph and it was clear that this was the case from the reaction of the audience when leaving the theatre. One not to be missed.