★★ | Stepping Out, Vaudeville Theatre, London
Stepping Out steps into the West End again but it’s on the wrong foot and it’s not a very exciting show.
First staged in the West End in 1984 and running for three years and winning an Evening Standard Comedy Award, Stepping Out was then made into a 1991 movie starring Liza Minnelli. It now returns to the West End in a new production starring Amanda Holden and Tracey-Ann Oberman among others playing characters from various backgrounds who attend a weekly dance and tap class. They also meddle – no surprise – into each others personal lives. Holden is Vera, a wealthy woman who seems to have nothing better to do because her whole life revolves around her husband who apparently spends lots and lots of time with their teenage daughter. Then there is Oberman who plays the brash Maxine, and who gets all the best lines in the show. Anna-Jane Casey is Mavis, the dance teacher who is a bit frustrated, not only because her students can’t dance but also because she’s got issues in her personal life (Tamzin Outhwaite had to pull out of this role temporarily because of a broken foot). So Stepping Out centres around the seven women (and one man – Dominic Rowan as Geoffrey) plus the piano player (a wonderful Judith Barker) as they dance and talk but then get the opportunity (of a lifetime!!!) to perform at a charity show. Wow, how exciting! Will they be ready for the show in time? Will one of the students not drop her hat like she’s done many times in rehearsals? Will more dark secrets come out and, god forbid, will one of the woman pull down the towel where Geoffrey is changing behind to add a bit of excitement to this show because this show has no excitement at all?
It’s The Full Monty without the Monty! Sure, the women do their best to get ready for the big charity show, but it’s hardly worth our time. We really don’t get to completely know, or sympathize, with the characters, and only a couple are likeable (Sandra Marvin brings a bit of sass to her role as the token black woman – Rose), and Oberman is wonderful, but there’s not really a whole lot to love in this production. Rowan is one note – not at all attractive or likeable as the lone man – he’s a widow but it would’ve been nice to put him in some sort of romance with one of the ladies. Written by Richard Harris in 1984, with this version directed by West End producer wonderwoman Maria Friedman, Stepping Out, which will be playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until June 17, 2017, probably won’t last that long. Do yourself a favour and just step right past the theatre.