19th Mar2017

Stepping Out (Theatre)

by timbaros

The cast of Stepping Out. Photo credit Ray Burmiston‘Stepping Out’ steps into the West End again but it’s on the wrong foot and it’s not a very exciting show.

First staged in the West End in 1984 and running for three years and winning an Evening Standard Comedy Award, ‘Stepping Out’ was then made into a 1991 movie starring Liza Minnelli. It now returns to the West End in a new production starring Amanda Holden and Tracey-Ann Oberman among others playing characters from various backgrounds who attend a weekly dance and tap class. They also meddle – no surprise – into each others personal lives. Holden is Vera, a wealthy woman who seems to have nothing better to do because her whole life revolves around her husband who apparently spends lots and lots of time with their teenage daughter. Then there is Oberman who plays the brash Maxine, and who gets all the best lines in the show. Anna-Jane Casey is Mavis, the dance teacher who is a bit frustrated, not only because her students can’t dance but also because she’s got issues in her personal life (Tamzin Outhaite had to pull out of this role temporarily because of a broken foot). So ’Stepping Out’ centres around the seven women (and one man – Dominic Rowan as Geoffrey) plus the piano player (a wonderful Judith Barker) as they dance and talk but then get the opportunity (of a lifetime!!!) to perform at a charity show. Wow, how exciting! Will they be ready for the show in time? Will one of the students not drop her hat like she’s done many times in rehearsals? Will more dark secrets come out and, god forbid, will one of the woman pull down the towel where Geoffrey is changing behind to add a bit of excitement to this show because this show has no excitement at all?

It’s The Full Monty without the monty! Sure, the women do their best to get ready for the big charity show, but it’s hardly worth our time. We really don’t get to completely know, or sympathize, with the characters, and only a couple are likeable (Sandra Marvin brings a bit of sass to her role as the token black woman – Rose), and Oberman is wonderful, but there’s not really a whole lot to love in this production. Rowan is one note – not at all attractive or likeable as the lone man – he’s a widow but it would’ve been nice to put him in some sort of romance with one of the ladies. Written by Richard Harris in 1984, with this version directed by West End producer wonderwoman Maria Friedman, ‘Stepping Out,’ which will be playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until June 17, 2017, probably won’t last that long. Do yourself a favor and just step right past the theatre.

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12th Feb2017

The Boys in the Band (Theatre)

by timbaros

The Boys in the Band - Company - cDarren BellA play that was originally produced off Broadway in 1968 has returned to the West End again, it’s the famous gay play ‘The Boys in The Band.’

Written by Martin Crowley, and fresh from last year’s run at the Park Theatre, the durability of this play is a testament to the crisp and hilarious writing, and the performances of the actors, of the trials and tribulations of eight gay men (and one possibly straight man) which makes this play endure.

The story, in case you don’t know, is about a birthday party for Harold (a very good Mark Gatiss), a posh 42-year old gay man who seems to have everything. The party takes place in the very nice apartment of Michael (Ian Hallard, Gatiss’s real-life husband), with posters of film divas (Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and lots of Judy Garland) that cleverly hang on the walls. The first to arrive at the birthday party is Donald (Daniel Boys), good looking and employed as a cleaner. He seems to be the most stable of the bunch. Then there’s Hank (Nathan Nolan) and Larry (Ben Mansfield), a couple who bring down the mood because of the constant tension between them. Do they really love each other? Then there’s Emory (an excellent James Holmes – the true star of the show). He’s witty, camp, funny and hilarious with the best lines. Emory, incidentally, has hired a not too smart male stripper named Cowboy (Jack Derges) who was supposed to arrive at Midnight (Midnight Cowboy – get it?), but arrives before the birthday boy gets there. He’s as hot and sexy as you would expect, and Derges plays him perfectly. Then there is a straight friend of Michael’s who comes to the party because he happens to be nearby. Throw this in along with a phone game and all of this creates more drama and tension in a play with a multitude of characters that you will either love or hate, though more than likely you will hate them.

‘The Boys in the Band’ is a play that is very outdated. It portrays gay men as bitter, angry and more importantly, lonely and outcast, but times have changed. And this show, which has been produced many times, has the same cast who were in the Park Theatre production last October. The actors are all very good (Holmes is really living it up on stage and looks like he’s really enjoying himself), the set is very clever, and the rest of the cast are very good, but it’s time to put this story to bed. ‘The Boys in the Band’ has been done to death. And as one of the characters says in the show ‘show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse’ – this show is no longer relevant.

‘The Boys in the Band’ is playing at London’s Vaudeville Theatre until Saturday, February 18th.