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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Stepping Out
Vaudeville Theatre  Spring 2017

Richard Harris's gentle 1983 comedy is a happy puppy dog of a show, wanting nothing more than to please you. And it will almost certainly succeed on that modest level, being no more likely to bore or offend than it is to excite. It is almost the archetype of a pleasant evening out. 

We're in a local community centre at a weekly dance class run by a former West End chorus girl. Except for the inevitable token man, the students are all thirty- or forty-something wives and mothers drawn more by the attraction of an evening out than by any artistic ambitions. 

They are, of course, a cross-section. There's a posh one and a working class one, a boisterous one and a mousy one, and so on. 

And of course the real point of the play is to let us get to know them a little deeper as they practice their basic steps week after week. 

One has a husband who ignores her, while another's abuses her. One tries to cope with a teenage stepson, another with a teenage daughter. The mousy one yearns after the man, who is oblivious. 

There is, at least briefly, an unwanted pregnancy. Several people admit to secrets, while others remain closed and secretive. Someone betrays a confidence. 

And through all this they stumble their way toward putting together a dance routine for the big end-of-year show and turn out to be spoiler alert pretty good. 

Director Maria Friedman has somewhat softened the not-all-that-rough-to-begin-with play, homogenising the characters so they are not as extreme or one-dimensional as they have been played in the past the pushy one isn't quite so pushy, the mousy one not quite so pathetic, and so on. 

While this insures that the play never trespasses beyond its generally pleasant tone, it also limits it. A few of the students, underwritten to begin with, become virtually invisible here, while I've seen the identity of the betrayer hinted at more forcefully, adding colours to an otherwise bland character. 

Amanda Holden gets star billing as the posh one, but the play is really held together by Anna-Jane Casey (replacing an ailing Tamzin Outhwaite) as the teacher, while Lesley Vicarage as the mousy one carries much of the dramatic weight and Tracy-Ann Oberman and Natalie Casey as the most outgoing generate much of the happy theatrical energy.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Stepping Out  - Vaudeville Theatre 2017  

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