Stepping Out by Richard Harris. Queanbeyan Players directed by Fiona Hale, choreography by Deborah Vaughan, music directed by Diana Thomson. Uniting Church Hall, Rutledge Street, Queanbeyanuntil January 29, 2005. Bookings: 6297 4054 or 6231 6073.
Stepping Out is a tap dancing Steaming, without the tasteful towels and occasional nudity, with slabs of sentimentality, more than occasional sexual innuendo, and a predictable ending - very well danced.
Don't go for the psychological depths the play pretends to plumb. Just go to see good tap dancing, and to see how it's OK for all shapes and sizes of people. As in Steaming, women actors are brave enough to be cast according to the shapes required by the script, wearing costumes and comments from other characters which are not entirely flattering in the conventional sense. And this cast, including the token male, carried themselves on opening night with professional dignity, turning the evening into a pleasant enough light entertainment.
Everyone played their roles effectively, within the limits the author imposes on them, as their various personal stories become revealed, but I would give an award for the best combination of acting and dancing to Georgia Pike for her Andy. Perhaps this is because Andy is the nearest to a character who develops through her experience in the dance class. Pike was meticulous in showing this development and revealed her sensitivity as well as style in the final dances.
Top-class production values are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in a bottom-class venue. A rectangular, hot hall with a flat floor and small stage, four spotlights and several garden floodlights and a small, though quite good quality sound system ... need I say more? The light refreshments at interval are necessary rather than an option. Queanbeyan surely deserves a better small theatre than this or its opposite, the barn of the Bicentennial Centre.
Directing and design overcame the venue pretty well, though the dance teacher's solo was too long, and the traditional problem of blackouts and noisy scene changes, sometimes several minutes long, could be solved. Drop the pretence of naturalism and do the changes in the light, so the audience have something to watch instead of waiting, bored, in the dark.
Still, in the end you'll be happily clapping to the tapping rhythm, which is what this show is really about.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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