A comedy about an amateur tap dancing class, Stepping Out is that rare and wonderful thing – a play that starts funny and stays that way. Yes, psychological wounds are exposed as the classmates banter and bicker but the laughs keep coming in a show that’s as light on its feet as the wannabe dancers eventually prove to be.
Penned in 1984 by the prolific TV writer Richard Harris and filmed in 1991 with Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters among the cast, it’s about seven women and one man who are put through their paces by a former hoofer, currently played by West End stalwart Anna-Jane Casey while Tamzin Outhwaite recovers from (oh the irony) an injured foot.
The film relocated the action to the States but director Maria Friedman brings it back to its native London and her’s is a fuss-free production that puts the characters front and centre. She’s got a terrific cast who revel in their eccentricities, especially ex-EastEnder Tracy-Ann Oberman gaudily funny as Maxine, Nicola Stephenson all bottled-up emotion as Dorothy and Judith Barker scarily stern as battleaxe pianist Mrs Fraser.
The big revelation, though, is Amanda Holden as Vera, a posh snob who keeps putting her foot in her mouth when it should be tapping away. Charmless as the titular heroine in Thoroughly Modern Millie and wooden in panto, she’s hilarious here – all pouffed-up hair, hideous ’80s fashions and OCD about cleanliness. Friedman’s production is a celebration of the fact, proven by Holden and her castmates, that Britain’s really got talent.
Stepping Out is at London’s Vaudeville Theatre until June 17. For more information and tickets visit steppingoutplay.com or call 0330 333 4814.
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Words by Simon Button