Stepping Out (play)
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|Written by||Richard Harris|
|Date premiered||25 September 1984|
|Setting||A dingy North London church hall|
The play concerns eight individuals from disparate backgrounds and with differing motivations who attend the same weekly tap dancing class in a dingy North London church hall. Despite the students at first treating the classes as social occasions, and showing little co-ordination, they later develop a level of skill and cohesiveness. The dance routines are the background for the focus of the play, the relationship and interaction of different people.
According to the play's writer, Richard Harris, the inspiration for the show came from his late wife, the actress Hilary Crane: "My wife started her career as a dancer and she liked to keep her foot in, as it were, so she went down to the local dance class and when she came back she suggested that I should go and have a look as she felt there might be a play in it for me."
Taking his wife's advice, Harris visited the local church hall, a setting very much like that in the play, where a tap dance class was in progress. "My wife hadn't been to the tap dance class", he explains. "She went to join a modern dance group, so it was by pure luck that I happened to go there and look through the window when a tap dance class was going on. It struck me that they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and I thought if I could capture that, the pleasure they are clearly getting out of the class, I might be a winner. So I spent a period researching and going to various dance classes and then wrote the play."
The original production of Stepping Out premiered at Leatherhead Theatre in 1984, directed by the actress Julia McKenzie with cast: 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). A tour of the production followed. The play went to the West End, opening at the Duke of York's Theatre, on 24 September 1984, and ran for nearly three years until 1 July 1987. It was awarded the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy in 1984.
The play has been produced world-wide, and a Broadway run began in 1987, opening at the John Golden Theatre on 11 January, running for 73 performances before closing on 15 March. It was directed by Tommy Tune; the cast included Pamela Sousa, Carole Shelley, Janet Eilber, Carol Woods and Meagen Fay.
2009 UK touring production
Cast: Brian Capron (Geoffrey), Jessie Wallace (Sylvia), Rosemary Ashe (Mrs Fraser), Wendy Mae Brown (Rose), Carrie Ellis (Maxine), Susie Fenwick (Vera), Katie Kerr (Lynne), Johanne Murdock (Andy), Karen Traynor (Dorothy), Lucy Williamson (Mavis), Lucy Woolliscroft (Fairy/Understudy), Ian Ganderton (Understudy), Yasmin Pettigrew (Understudy), Felicity Butler (Understudy).
2010 UK touring production
Cast: Brian Capron (Geoffrey), Anita Harris (Vera), Katie Kerr (Sylvia), Janet De Vigne (Mrs Fraser), Wendy Mae Brown (Rose), Natalie Cleverley (Maxine), Catherine Millsom (Lynne), Johanne Murdock (Andy), Karen Traynor (Dorothy), Lucy Williamson (Mavis), Lucy Woolliscroft (Fairy/Understudy), Ian Ganderton (Understudy), Liz Jadav (Understudy), Felicity Butler (Understudy).
Both tours started their runs at the Leatherhead Theatre where the play was originally performed.