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Stepping Out at The Mill at Sonning

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 27th Nov 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

I love tap dancing, and as a failed tap dancer (so unco-ordinated am I I don’t think I got beyond two or three classes!) Richard Harris’s feel good classic is one of my favourite shows.

Of course, those taking part really do have to be able to tap dance, though on opening night I thought I saw some real looks of relief at the end of the glittering finale!

What is probably even harder is being able to dance but making it look as if you can’t, which The Mill’s entire company does with aplomb, and not a few twisted limbs.

But Stepping Out is not just about a tap dancing class. Under Sally Hughes’ tight and sympathetic direction, as the night goes on we learn something of the lives of the dance students and why the class is so important to them.

They all have their demons and in this ensemble piece every single performer brings his or her character to life, making us roar with laughter at their idiosyncrasies and bringing a tear with the eye as their stories unfold.

I can’t single anyone out. I love them all: Michelle Morris is sassy and extrovert as the joker Maxine; Elizabeth Elvin wonderfully irritating as the bossy, organising Vera; Janine Leigh as the gum-chewing chav gives us the most laughs, and Belinda Carroll has us all on her side as Dorothy, who wants to please everyone. Yvonne Newman is a big, warm bundle of love as Rose, who unexpectedly steals one scene with a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, while our hearts go out to Andy (Angela Sims) and Geoffrey (Richard Gibson), both of whom are so uptight you think they are going to break - rabbit in the headlights comes to mind! And adding some calmness and normality is Lynne, played with great sensitivity by Ruth Pownall.

Elizabeth Power as pianist Mrs Fraser is certainly a force to be reckoned with - her withering looks and put downs almost rival the queen of withering looks and put downs, Dame Maggie Smith!

Last but certainly not least, Amber Edlin is so believable as teacher Mavis that I really felt like I was observing a real dance class. Local to East Berkshire, how she appears to teach tap dancing with such skill and confidence is beyond me, and still act.

The Mill at Sonning is a unique experience. Past winner of the most welcoming theatre, it includes dinner in the price of your ticket, and with turkey and all the trimmings on offer, you couldn’t do much better than celebrate the festive season there.


Stepping Out is at The Mill at Sonning until January 16.

Box Office: 0118 969 8000



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