Stepping Out at Vaudeville Theatre
The revival of the comedy play Stepping Out at Vaudeville Theatre, written by Richard Harris, directed by Maria Friedman and starring Amanda Holden, is in short a story about a group of people attending a tap dancing class. With an atmosphere reminding one somewhat of old British sitcoms, like Are You Being Served, the scenario involves the interactions of eight middle-aged students who learn to dance as a form of escape from their daily lives.
The dialogue can come across as slightly dated, as can the jokes, and the plot – involving a series of tap classes – can appear at bit tedious at first. However, it is the characters that make this show. Like friendships that gradually grow on you, they become more interesting as their personalities and the details of their lives unfold. It’s as if the piece is intentionally briefly a little dull to mimic real life, in which such a course could be rather hum drum until one gets to know their classmates.
Seeming initially placid or haughty or standoffish, each individual becomes unique and interesting. The piano player, Mrs Fraser (Judith Barker) – at first a frumpy, portly, slightly elderly women who is eternally cranky and forever walking out in a huff – is soon revealed to be witty, bold and cheeky. By the show’s end she’s an elegant diva. A haughty socialite, Vera (Amanda Holden), is really quite sweet, and actually hails from more humble origins, having been groomed by an abusive Henry Higgins-type husband. A woman, Andy (Lesley Vickerage), who wears baggy, unstylish clothes, is revealed to have a spouse who beats her. The one male in the group, Geoffrey (Dominic Rowan), is a rather stodgy businessman who might possibly be gay and closeted, although it’s never confirmed. Quirks, sensitivities and human details make the characters endearing as we learn more about them. As if participants, viewers empathise with and root for these people as they prepare to perform for an important charity event.
Amanda Holden – clearly a big draw for this show – is excellent as Vera. The entire cast is very good. The dialogue and jokes might have benefitted from being rewritten in a more contemporary mode, but otherwise the acting is terrific as is the development of the characters. Charming, fun and heart-warming, it is they and the dazzling, outstanding finale that make this play worth seeing.
Photo: Ray Burmiston
Stepping Out is at Vaudeville Theatre from 1st March until 17th June 2017. Book your tickets here.