Why am I alone tonight, when I should be Stepping Out!
It is always sad when shows suffer due to being compared to their film counterparts and in some respects - despite the fact that many are play before films - Richard Harris’ Stepping Out is one such show that, for me, experienced just that.
Currently running at Altrincham Garrick Playhouse, the show that saw Liza Minnelli play the part of dance teacher Mavis (Laura Chandler) who we see trying to bring out the best in her ‘students’ throughout their journey from inexperienced tap beginners to performers on a professional/charity concert stage, experiencing personal stresses and social confrontation along the way.
As a show that came to light when Harris’ wife attended a modern dance class before suggesting her husband go along to see if there was any scope for a story for a new play, each character has their own personality to portray; beit bumbling and bashful boy Geoffrey (Kevin Proctor), clumsy cyclist and care worker Dorothy (April Millar), long suffering wife and husband server Andy (Ros Greenwood) and Lynne (Grace Garside), or weight-conscious Sylvia (Lise Nivern-Banks), larger than life Rose (Nancy Norrie) or jack of all trades shop owner Maxine (Rachel Barrington).
Stand outs have to be Maxine, Sylvia and new attendee to the group, clean-freak and interferer Vera (Dawn Flint) who provides most of the comedy, as well as the priceless one-liners and ‘spot’ spot provided by dance class accompanist Mrs Glenda Fraser (Christine Perry), under the direction of Stephanie Niland.
Whilst I was slightly confused by the randomness of a set of dust-sheet-covered steps on the stage - which until the finale are only used for Geoffrey to change his trousers behind, adding a bit of humour when Vera is caught off guard by an eye full - it is well set, even without the lounge-singing scenes of Mavis and her boyfriend, as in the film. I also missed the reasoning of the choice of scene change music being performed on an exotic sounding guitar (and piano by Peter England), but I guess it served its purpose.
Overall, a good show with laughs and gasps from the audience in all the right places, and some songs that you will easily recognise from the world of showbiz and stylised dance. Perhaps the most impressive part, after feeling the effort that the class endured, is the dance spectacle at the end, where each cast members shines (not just because of the sequin-encrusted ribbons on their top hats and lapels).
If you have ever attended a dance class as a beginner, especially as the only man, you are sure to empathise and will even be sure to find someone in your life that matches each individual character.
On until Saturday, tickets are available from www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk
Reviewer: Chris Oatway
Reviewed: 29th April 2015