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Stepping Out at the Vaudeville Theatre – Review

Amanda Holden (Vera) in Stepping Out. Photo credit Ray Burmiston.
Amanda Holden (Vera) in Stepping Out. Photo credit Ray Burmiston.

A night of fun and hilarity is what can be expected by audiences attending Vaudeville Theatre’s Stepping Out! Written by Richard Harris and directed by Maria Friedman, the show is a whirlwind of laughs, following the journey of 7 women and one lone male who attend a weekly tap class. For anyone who has taken a dance class or been involved with amateur performing arts, the characters and scenarios are all too familiar, making this piece highly relatable and very easy to get lost in!

The production is a character piece, providing an initial glimpse into the lives and personalities of the wannabe dancers, before slowly adding the meat to the bones and uncovering their stories. What seems at first to be a simple tap class is actually a form of escapism, distraction or therapy for each character.

As each focuses on improving their dancing ability we learn that their dancing isn’t the thing that needs fixing – though needless to say, these loveable rookie -tappers are a far cry from Fred and Ginger!

What Stepping Out lacks in blockbuster effects, it makes up for with real people and familiar stories, creating a genuine and intimate vibe which is a refreshing change from the current onslaught of wiz-bang-pop productions we seem constantly surrounded by.

The cast have not had an easy run leading up to their opening, with the unexpected departure of Tamzin Outhwaite just hours before the initial preview. Nevertheless, the cast have rallied and created a cohesive ensemble who are completely in sync and fully of energy!

As a whole, the company are tight and all performers are successful in carving out a nook or creating a voice. The energy on stage is contagious and never once do they let it drop, the hallmark of a brilliant ensemble cast! While many are larger than life personalities, the genuine sincerity with which they are portrayed is not lost at any time. Unfortunately, many plot points do go unresolved, though this is understandably due to the large quantity of individual personal narratives, all of which grow in complexity throughout the piece.

Amanda Holden’s Vera is delectably annoying but still strangely endearing, a testament to Holden’s ability to engage and captivate an audience. Special mention should also go to Lesley Vickerage and Sandra Marvin in the roles of Andy and Rosie respectively. Lesley Vickerage brings a sincerity and vulnerability to the production which is essential in grounding the piece, while Sandra Marvin is a comic genius, serving as a highlight throughout. My personal favourite was Tracey-Anne Oberman’s Maxine who shows a delicate balance of fierce determination and vulnerability.

Dominic Rowan certainly has his work cut out for him, sharing the stage with 7 strong female performers, however, his comic timing is brilliant. He also shows undeniable strength in the quieter scenes with Andy demonstrating a depth that makes his comic side all the more lovable.

To put it simply, Stepping Out is fun, a lot of fun, and towards the end of the production, it actually became unclear as to who was having more fun, the cast or us! The production is as infectious as it is heart-warming and it certainly had us tapping all the way home – literally!

4 Stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

Amanda Holden heads a phenomenal cast in this wonderfully funny and heart-warming comedy which charts the lives of seven women and one man attempting to tap their troubles away at a weekly dancing class. Initially all thumbs and left feet, the group is just getting to grip with the basics when they are asked to take part in a charity gala…

Over the course of several months we meet the group, and all of them have a story to tell, There’s haughty Vera, mouthy Maxine and uptight Andy; bubbly Sylvia and shy Dorothy; eager Lynne and cheerful Rose and, of course, Geoffrey. At the piano is the dour Mrs Fraser and spurring them all on, the ever-patient Mavis.

Directed by triple Olivier Award-winner Maria Friedman, the stellar cast also includes Tracy-Ann Oberman, Tamzin Outhwaite, Nicola Stephenson and Natalie Casey.

Stepping Out was the winner of the Evening Standard Comedy of the Year Award, 1984. It was also made into a musical, which became a film in 1991, starring Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters. 

Vaudeville Theatre
404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH

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