Stepping Out: London theatre review

Date Posted: 16/03/2017

“I anticipated an all-singing, all-dancing, showbiz-style production”, writes Laura Sexton, on the new London run of Stepping Out. But did the new show meet her expectations? 

I was feeling positive stepping in to see Stepping Out. I was unfamiliar with the story line and its characters but had that typical buzz of excitement that comes with going to see a new show. 

I was envisaging all-singing, an all-dancing, showbiz-like production – perhaps something like Fame – however, my expectations weren’t met. For a show that is all about dancing, there isn’t actually that much dancing involved. 

Stepping Out – which I should stress isn’t anything like a musical – follows the story of a group of amateur tap dancers from different social classes and backgrounds who come together each week to rehearse for a charity performance. The storyline is relatively simple and takes off when actress and television personality Amanda Holden, playing the character of uptight Vera joins the class. 

I went into the theatre under the impression that Amanda Holden would be the star – the posters advertising Stepping Out suggest this – however that wasn’t the case. The small cast all played equal parts, which, whilst refreshing, was different to other shows where the audience is rooting for one or two main characters. 

Don’t get me wrong; Stepping Out is a good play. It has intricately created characters, a great script, humour that tickled the audience, and dramatic moments that certainly made everyone hold their breath.

The comedy was fairly tame, however I think that’s what made it enjoyable – it’s an easy watch and doesn’t involve too much commitment from the audience. Any darker moments come from when the audience get a further look into each character’s lives. For example, the character Andy, played by Lesley Vicarage, is an incredibly anxious and awkward woman, who doesn’t like being touched – and it’s the big reveal as to why that brings the shock factor. 

Another character Sylvia, played by Natalie Casey, who seemed to bring the comic relief to the show more often than not, also has a big reveal about something dark in her life. These moments carry the plot along and keep the audience interested.

The overall message I received from going to see Stepping Out, was that people may be from different backgrounds, and have different stories, but everyone and anyone can be a victim and despite the many facades that we all put up, underneath the most confident, self-assured person, there might be a cry for help waiting to come out. 

I witnessed this especially with the character Maxine, played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, who was very much portrayed as a leader, but who later admits that she has no self-confidence.

My personal favourite character is Rose, played by Sandra Marvin, whose carefree and hilarious attitude is one of the highlights of the whole performance.

If your group enjoys a show that offers an insight into the seemingly ‘normal’ lives of others and portrays reality rather than fantasy, Stepping Out is a show for you. Although I felt as though I would have liked to have delved into the characters more, it did leave room for your own interpretation.

Other highlights for me included the set. It felt somewhat homey and depicted a small town hall, with an old stage in the background, a wooden piano and stacked chairs and benches. The way the show presented time change I found to be very effective, with small details of the town hall changing, such as the posters and backdrops of the town hall stage.

There were moments that gave me a glimmer of hope that the play was suddenly going to burst into the dance-mania that I’d hoped for, such as when the lights went down and their performance hats came down from the ceiling, or when Mavis, played by Anna-Jane Casey, broke out into an impressive dance solo across the stage. 

However the best part of the show was saved until last when the cast (finally) put on a terrific tap dancing performance. 

Although I didn’t ‘step out’ of the theatre tapping my toes, I did enjoy experiencing a West End show on a smaller scale. Despite it not living up to my expectations, I’d still recommend it to anyone who enjoys something a little less flash-bang-wallop and a bit more entertaining on a down-to-earth level. 

Stepping Out is booking until June 2017 at Vaudeville Theatre in London. For more information visit www.nimaxtheatres.com

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