The story concerns Mavis, a dance teacher, who tries to turn her evening class into a presentable tap dancing group for a spot on the charity show 'Children In Need'. However, the class has not been going very long and none of the students are very good. There are some hilarious scenes, as they try to get the hang of tap dancing while using a hat and stick. However, the show is quite poor and without substance.
The teacher and her pupils have emotional problems ranging from unwanted pregnancy to wife battering and infidelity. Despite the potential for sympathy with the characters, the show lacked the ability to make you feel sorry for them. This is mainly because there is no background to the problems, which are just presented to you without any real explanation. All this is not helped by the average music, which is uninspiring, and like the script, is dull and predictable.
This musical had the potential to be great! It had the characters, but they were not explored enough. Liz Robertson who plays Mavis, the dance teacher, puts in an adequate performance, but as her part lacked credibility, she and many of the other actors failed to be convincing. In fact, the only character with any substance was Vera, played wonderfully by Carolyn Pickles. Vera, is a snobbish woman who has a thing about cleanliness, always cleaning the dance hall and its toilets, and generally getting up her class mates noses with her continued bragging about her 'adorable' husband and 'perfect' daughter! I also liked Mrs Fraser, played by Gwendolyn Watts. She is the pianist for the dance class, a pianist with an attitude!! I particularly love the way she walks across the stage, with very small steps, looking as if she is floating. Very comical!
The music by Denis King is ordinary with nothing ground breaking or original. All actors sang the songs well, but frankly, the music is dull.
The set design by Sean Cavanagh is well constructed and clever. Each scene change is done with ease, thanks to the moving props that automatically wheel on and off the stage changing the scene from the classroom, to the hall, to a wine bar and to a restaurant.
Most of the popular press did not like the musical. CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH described the musical as " Glib and mawkish" and "Underpowered". THE SUNDAY TIMES described the music as " Sub-Sondheimish" that does not add much to the show. NICK CURTIS of THE EVENING STANDARD says the show is " low-key, low-brow entertainment." SARA ABDULLA of TIME OUT disliked the music immensely saying Stepping Out has been saddled with music and lyrics "plumb butt-clenching depths of banality." However, BILL HAGERTY of THE NEWS OF THE WORLD liked the show saying "Step lively for an uplifting evening." And BEN DOWELL for THE STAGE says, " Though rather amateurish, this show grows on you."
Stepping Out does have its moments, particularly at the end, which is probably the best part of the show (and no, not because it is the end!!). Some may find the show mildly entertaining, in parts anyway, but I think most will be disappointed. I know I was.