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Stepping Out (tour – Norwich)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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It may be 25 years since the original production of Richard Harris's comedy with music Stepping Out, but the show has survived translation into other media to be re-created for this celebratory tour. If anything, the eight aspiring tap-dancers make more dramatic sense in 2009 than in 1984, itself a year with a certain resonance.

Richard Baron keeps the fun going while letting the personal tragedies and everyday boredom of the seven women and solitary widower surface as necessary. He's well served by Ken Harrison's setting; one of those ghastly multi-purpose community halls with too little comfort and far too much interference from passing traffic. It makes a fine contrast with the final scene, where the ill-assorted troupe finally perform for a charity audience.

Each character has her or his own chance to slide into the limelight as they muddle through the routines and try to understand each other's ways of coping. There's a scene-stealing performance by Rosemary Ashe as the grumpy rehearsal pianist with a very distinct set of musical priorities and a beautifully understated one by Johanne Murdock as abused wife Andy. Snobby Vera (Susie Fenwick) and loud-mouth bubbly blonde Sylvia (Jessie Wallace) circle around each other as though alighted from completely different planets, while Carrie Ellis' Maxine and Wendy Mae Brown's Rose provide their own counterpart to the mix.

Trying to hold it all together is Lucy Williamson as Mavis, the dance teacher who has almost learnt to accept where her future lies, which is not on the professional stage {Susie Fenwick] and Karen Traynor also provide credible portraits, as does Brian Capron as Geoffrey, a fish out of water whom no-one will succeed in reeling in. Not, at any rate, in this story.

The choreographer is Kenn Oldfield whose class steps are precisely right for the shambolic practices – everyone obviously forgets everything from one week to the next – and equally so for the actual display. I liked his interpolated dances for the two frustrated performers who have received some training. I liked the occasionally obtrusive sound system for the dialogue rather less. These days large theatres seem to take miking as automatic. This cast could surely be allowed to articulate for themselves.


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