First a play that premiered in the West End in 1984 (and ran for nearly three years), then a 1991 film (starring Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters) and then turned into a stage musical in 1996, Stepping Out has looped, or maybe that should be tap-danced, back to its origins as a modest but sometimes marvellous West End comedy.
A new production of Stepping Out directed by Maria Friedman is now open at the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End. It follows a run at the Theatre Royal Bath, the Richmond Theatre and the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Amanda Holden stars in the production alongside Natalie Casey, Tracy-Ann Oberman, and Nicola Stephenson.
Richard Harris' play Stepping Out opened in London at the Duke of York's Theatre, on 24 September 1984 where it ran for almost three years until 1 July 1987. Originally opening in 1984 at the Leatherhead Theatre where it was directed by Julia McKenzie the London transfer was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy in the 1984 awards season. The original London production starred Barbara Ferris (Mavis), Sheri Shepstone (Mrs. Fraser), Charlotte Barker (Lynne), Josephine Gordon (Dorothy), Barbara Young (Maxine), Gabrielle Lloyd (Andy), Ben Aris (Geoffrey), Diane Langton (Sylvia), Peggy Phango (Rose) and Marcia Warren (Vera).
Following the successful London run Stepping Out transferred to Broadway's John Golden Theatre in 1987 where it ran for 73 performances in a production directed by Tommy Tune.
A film adaptation of Stepping Out was released in 1991 starring Liza Minnelli, and Julie Walters. The original play continues to be a favourite of amateur theatre and rep companies around the world, and frequently tours the UK.
Richard Harris was inspired to write the play after his late wife, actress Hilary Crane returned to dance classes in her local village hall. Harris visited the tap-dance classes, watching through the window and finding inspiration in the situation and characters.
A musical version of Stepping Out was also produced and featured a book by Richard Harris, lyrics by Mary Stewart-David and music by Denis King. It opened at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in 1996 and transferred to the Albery Theatre (now the Noel Coward) in the West End in 1997.
Stepping Out follows eight individuals from a mix of backgrounds who find themselves together in a North London church hall for a weekly tap dancing class. Whilst they begin the class for a variety of reasons, their motivations develop as we begin to meet each of the characters. Many begin the class with a lack of coordination and skill but as the weeks develop they each begin to master the basics, leading to a performance at a charity gala. The group continue to tap their troubles away and their distinct personalities begin to shine through, creating a funny and heart-warming comedy.