Stepping Out: The New Musical at the Albery Theatre

Take a successful play and film, which follows the trials of the characters in a local tap dance class as they struggle to be ready for their first performance in a charity show, turn it into a musical and get Julia McKenzie (director of the original play) to direct.. What a great opportunity to introduce some uplifting, show-stopping and lyrical songs. Shame it doesn't work out like that.

To make a successful musical, you need some good, preferably great, songs - and this ain't got a one. The songs here are inoffensive and completely indistinguishable. It is as if, in writing the music, Dennis King fed every song from every musical ever into a computer to find the average, then composed songs slightly below that standard. They also have an unmistakable whiff of TV themes about them - King's main oeuvre.

Without good songs to carry the show, the limitations of the dramatic fare are obvious. The characters never rise above their stereotypes, and the stereotypes aren't funny enough, despite valiant perfomances from the cast, particularly Liz Robertson as the long-suffering tap teacher. There's the doolally spinster who isn't that doolall; the tart with a heart (and bouncing bosoms) who isn't that tarty; the woefully miscast Carolyn Pickles as fastidious, nosey Vera who should have been hilariously maddening but was only slightly annoying; and the butt of innumerable jokes about being the sole man in the class - Mr Cardigan himself - Geoffrey (Colin Wakefield ).

Unsurprisingly, the response to 'will they, won't they?' love interest between Geoffrey and anxious Andy (Felicity Goodson) is a definite 'don't know, don't care'. There is more chance of sparks flying from Geoffrey's jumpers than from their relationship.

In fact, as each character's private traumas are gradually revealed, it becomes hard to work up any interest. This is partly because of the irritating fact that the increasing confidence gained through the dance class never leads to the characters solving their personal problems or even gaining insight into them. “The show's the thing” of course - it s just not up to much.

The final scene is impressive - an all-singing, all-dancing finale which must have cost three-quarters of the budget - but it s too little too late. If this show is an advert for adult education, it worked. But personally, I'd rather have gone to my flower-arranging evening class.

Yvonne Smith, November 1997