REVIEW: Stepping Out at the Vaudeville Theatre *****
| By Shaun Nolan
It’s rare that I don’t agree with a general critical consensus when they don’t take a fancy to a show, but Stepping Out seems to be an exception. Remarkably, I knew nothing about the play before going in other than it focuses on a group of women in a weekly tap class, but what I met was a pleasant surprise. Not only does this play feel fresh and light-hearted, but it’s complex and hilarious in equal measure, making it a West End staple.
The play is probably most famous for its original three-year run in the West End and then the movie adaptation that followed starring the likes of Liza Minelli, Julie Walters, Andrea Martin, Ellen Greene, Jane Krakowski and more back in 1991. It’s a story that looks at the lives of a group of women in their tap class each week, focusing on the changes that are happening in their lives both as women and humans in general. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and at times almost tear-inducingly sad, but it’s a night out that everyone will leave feeling like they’re walking on air.
The production is directed by Maria Friedman and Amanda Holden – the show’s “star”, despite this being an ensemble piece at its very core – once said in an interview that it was her husband’s idea to pull a team of friends together and put this production on and the show really does have that feel to it. With a fantastic cast ranging from the likes of Tracy Ann-Oberman to the incredible Sandra Marvin and even Anna Jane Casey who is stepping in for Tamsin Outhwaite as she – ironically – steps out, the show boasts an ensemble cast full of the most talented and hilarious actresses that the UK has to offer. It’s a thrill to see them work together as such a wonderful team.
Robert Jones’s design on the production is fantastic and works perfectly for the Vaudeville. I always associate the Vaudeville with having wonderfully intimate and lived-in sets (think plays like Hand to God and the set they had) and this show is no exception. The attention to detail in the small community hall that the majority of the play is set in, is fantastic casting an 80s community feel across the show brilliantly. When the show was originally performed it was obviously meant for a “modern setting”, but all this time later, it’s a fantastic 80s jaunt that has that feel to it as well.
While Stepping Out might not be the most high-brow play you can see in the West End at the moment, it is certainly one of the most enjoyable. And not just one of the most enjoyable plays in the West End either, but one of the most enjoyable shows overall.