Review of the Show
Photos Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/xoWN4iFGDQEQwAz6A
THIS is one of those plays that pops up with some regularity, so I am pretty familiar with it. However, listening to comments around me it was clear that quite a few of the audience had seen only the film, and that had drawn them to this production. I’m sure that they won’t have been disappointed, because although Liza Minnelli, Julie Walters, Shelley Winters et al were conspicuous by their absence, this really was a very good show indeed, thanks to the production team of Barbara Evans (director) and Rosie Thomas (choreographer).
Richard Harris’ Stepping Out is, of course, about a weekly tap class that takes place in a dingy London church hall. It always tickles me that at least some of the audience seems to think that the cast really do learn to tap dance as the play progresses, so there is always applause when they finally ‘get it right’. Since it is actually rather difficult to pretend to do something badly when you know the correct way all along, all credit must go to the performers for being so very convincing!
Richard Fereday’s excellent set looks exactly right, and thanks to some good use of spots the lighting effects during scene changes work a treat. But of course it’s the cast who make the show, and make it they do, brilliantly. It is rare in a production for every character to be equally well performed, but it has certainly happened in this case, and every one of them is a joy to watch.
Let me start with the one male, Geoffrey. Tony Haberfield plays him so very well that despite his lovely smile I wanted to shake his character for being so ineffectual, standing back and letting chances pass him by. There’s little chance though of the ‘token spade’ doing that, and Silma Ramsaywick’s superb characterisation is beautifully judged – and on the evidence of the small piece of singing she did I’d say that she has a great voice too.
Rosie Thomas’ class leader, Mavis, also comes across as a strong force to be reckoned with, and she too has a lovely smile – as does Shannon Fisher, playing somewhat against type as the overweight Sylvia but making a great impression.
Among the other ‘tappers’, Sarah Haberfield creates a marvellously irritating character as Vera, and Jo Mansfield, almost unrecognisable in her wig, also impresses as the equally irritating Maxine. And while we’re on the subject of irritating, I really need to see Jan Johnson in something completely different very soon, as she is so convincing as the whiny voiced and echolalia-disposed Dorothy that I could almost believe that she always sounds like that, which I’m sure she doesn’t. Both Tina Fagan (Lynne) and Lucy Kelleher (Andy) are also totally believable in their roles.
Last, but certainly not least, the character of pianist Mrs Fraser is a gift for any actress, and Maggie Soares completely owns this role and creates many of the evening’s more humorous moments, not least because of the very funny walk she has adopted.