Theater Notes: Absolutely a smash hit
Theater magic happened on the stage of BIG ARTS Strauss Theater on opening night, and it totally thrilled that audience. They agreed with me. I loved the show and I could see equal delight in the faces of most everyone during the resounding standing ovation that just wouldn’t quit. “Stepping Out” is definitely a smash hit.
The plot is pretty straight forward. There is only one set, a low rent sort of rehearsal space. It has one piano, and one tap dance teacher working with a group of misfits who, through what seems like futile dance classes, slowly connect and realize the show they can pull together. Tapping their feet sore, irritating each other while painfully revealing their back stories, nursing their wounds, they find self-esteem and that clearly impacts their lives, as we all cheered them home.
The play is by Richard Harris, born in London in 1934. He became a prolific writer. His early career was in writing crime and detective mysteries. Later, he made out big time with a horde of TV series in London. Our play goes back to 1991, and was a Broadway Musical starring Liza Minnelli.
Harris writes delightful twists and turns and I could see the audience trying to guess where “Stepping Out” was going, but the playwright is not totally predictable and he sure kept our attention. No one fell asleep in the theater this night.
On the way out, I talked to some people who really know theater, and they all had raves for what we had just seen. I hate farce, but I found more than enough poignancy, truth and integrity, to make the slapstick and goof-ball elements work for the evening’s journey. I came to care for the characters.
Now credit for that must go to the 10 clumsy in the beginning tap dancers, who were sometimes hopeless, often at odds with each other, scared stiff frequently, but all of them adorable in their roles as members of the dance troupe, and that included their driven teacher and their dour piano accompanyist.
What a cast it was. Most of them have been on the stage at BIG ARTS Strauss before. Marley Dove, Kiersten Benzing, Nancy Antonio, Julie Arensman, Mindy Montavon, Christopher Russell, and Samantha Rotella. It is clear that they come back for the rollicking fun, and for the deep loyalty to Bobby Logue, the esteemed artistic director of the theater.
But, also for the chance to work with Ann Nieman, an award winning director and choreographer. What she hath wrought was simply marvelous. Go see for yourself. I predict word-of-mouth will fill this theater right up to its closing performance on March 12. Call Janet at the box office as fast as you can if you want tickets. (239) 472-6862. Kids are welcome, too. Tickets are only $5 for them, $42 for the rest of you. Tell Janet you saw this review. It would make me feel goofy. Tickets can be bought at www.bigarts.org.
Have a wonderful evening out.