Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review of Repertory Phils' STEPPING OUT: Therapeutic Tap-Dancing

April 10, 2016

"Stepping Out The Musical' was developed by Richard Harris based on his own 1984 straight play of the same title, with music is by Denis King and lyrics by Mary Stewart-David. It had a respectable run in the UK 1996 to 1998. 

Mavis ran a tap-dancing class every Thursday night, with her pianist Mrs. Fraser. Her students are a motley group of women (plus one guy) who were there to escape the humdrum routine of their daily lives, not really to become great dancers. She has to get them ready for a charity show where they were invited to perform. While Mavis is sensitive to her students' needs, she herself was wrestling problems about her bum of a boyfriend. 

Dorothy is an old maid who spends her days taking care of her invalid mother. Lynne is a nurse taking care of old ladies in a home. Maxine is a motormouth gossip who never loses an opportunity to make a sale. Rose is a flashy "fat and forty" housewife who had styling problems with her hair. Sylvia is an overweight girl with two left feet when dancing. Vera is a fussy British lady with a frank attitude. Andy is an aloof shrinking-violet with an absentee husband. The lone guy Geoffrey is a widower trying to recapture memories of his late wife who loved to dance.

The show is a talky melodrama which delves into the lives of these lonely women (and man). Everything is actually quite garden-variety mundane though, nothing too remarkable. You can get definitely the episodic feel of "The Love Boat" or "Knots Landing" in the cheesy soap-opera dialogue. None of the songs really stick with you after the show, even if some of them sounded good while they were being sung. For me, the best of the 15 songs in the show is "Loving Him," sung by the martyr-wife trio of Vera, Mavis and Andy towards the end of Act 2. But I cannot hum it anymore when I came out of the theater.

The main factor that made these lines and songs succeed in this production was really the performance of the talented Filipino cast.

It was such a joy to see Ms. Joy Virata do comedy again. No matter how annoying her character Vera got, Ms. Joy can pull it off in such a way that you'd smile every time she's on stage. I can never forget that scene when she entered the stage bedecked like a second-place trophy -- precious! 

The role of Mrs. Fraser could have been a walk-on role for a lesser actress. but Ms. Sheila Francisco stole her scenes with her acerbic sarcasm and her idolatry of Irving Berlin. Silver-haired Ms. EJ Villacorta returns to the Rep stage as Maxine after a prolonged absence. She still has very strong stage-presence and singing pipes, which was most evident in her solo number "Just the Same."

There is simply no way to ignore Ms. Bituin Escalante when she is onstage. Standing out is effortless for her, so she is a natural choice as the bombastic Rose. Her spectacular solo spot in Act 1 "Don't Ask Me" is one of the most-applauded numbers of the whole show. 

There is also no way not to notice Raymond Concepcion in the role of the only thorn among the roses, Geoffrey. He has that nerdy gentleman air down pat as required of his role of a shipping insurance guy, and his sensitive side shows when he interacts with the ladies. Mr. Concepcion is very versatile as an actor and singer. The last lead role I saw him tackle was that of transgender Bernadette in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," alternating with no less than Jon Santos!

The faces in the lead roles were new to me. Angela Pineda (as Mavis) was very realistic as a frustrated dance instructor, both physically (with her grace and posture) and attitudinally (you feel her love for dance). Christine Flores captured the pained anguish of loneliness within her character Andy. Her delicate soprano fit so well with the psychologically-fragile and physically-scarred character she was playing. 

The other ladies in the class were played by Natalie Everett (as Dorothy), Cara Barredo (as Lynne) and Ms. (yes, she's female) David Shawn Delgado (as Sylvia).

"Stepping Out the Musical" is directed by Jaime del Mundo. Musical direction is by Ejay Yatco who led the live orchestra at the pit. The 80s chic leotard costumes were by Mindy Perez-Rubio. The set consisting of the rundown dance hall, the neighborhood cafe and bar was designed by Miguel Faustmann. The lighting design by John Batalla was effective as ever. The tap choreography by Rose Borromeo is fun to watch, especially that grand finale.


The show runs April 1-24, 2016 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1 Mall, Makati City. Schedules are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8PM, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:30PM. Call 843-3570. Tickets also available through Ticketworld at 891-9999 or

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