With such a line-up of strong women in this female dominated show, Stepping Out has all the hallmarks of a great night out at the Vaudeville.
The revival of Richard Harris' 1984 piece is intended to set the West End alight. I understand why, given that the original play had the honour of an Evening Standard Comedy of the Year Award and was successful on Broadway, it would attract a crowd. The audience was made up of middle-aged women, and from the very opening dialogue it was as comfortable as slipping into a pair of well-loved shoes.
The set was a throwback to days harking back to bad perms, and shoulder pads that could rival Alexis Carrington in Dynasty. I appreciate that the show is set in 1983 "when Thatcher was running the country and Trump was a Property Magnate" but it was reminiscent of a school play being put on for the end of year assembly. Eager to please, but slow to deliver in the earlier stages. Of course, the show-stopper is the group number and for that, due credit must be given.
That said, the cast were astral. Sandra Marvin has an effervescent quality about her although, especially as the sole black character, her dialogue seemed to be stereotypical. Angela Griffin being replaced by Natalie Casey who was well-rehearsed and with fast-paced wit and enthusiasm. Tracey-Ann Oberman showed her comedic dexterity and her timing was perfect – the exact amount of nuance at exactly the right time. Amanda Holden was well placed as the haughty, cleaning-obsessed Vera, playing the role as a poor Princess Diana – she certainly had the hair to match. Amanda is very easy to watch and you can't help but warm to her, she did a sterling job in delivering lines with the exact amount of inflexion. Amanda appears to be a real 'woman's woman' and that carried through into this role.
Nicola Stephenson took on the role of Sylvia with assurance, with a shy nervousness about her which was very endearing, and praise must be given to Jessica Alice-McCluskey, fresh out of drama school, taking on her first role with a quiet self-confidence. Dominic Rowan was the sole male and he managed to make himself heard amongst the women. Excelling in her role as Mavis, having been drafted in to take over in the role originally intended for Tamsin Outhwaite, Anna-Jane Casey seemed to be carrying the show. Indeed, in the first half, there is a dance break which is highly pleasurable to watch.
The plotline was interwoven and at times it seemed as if the emotion was as fast marched as the tapping. Like any great learning curve, it started off slowly and reached a boisterous climax. It's a great thing to have a prevailingly female-led cast in current times, but there has to be substance to catch the imagination and keep the interest from waning. Stepping Out starts off slowly and simmers along nicely.
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