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Irving Stage Company puts on the hit British comedy Stepping Out at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, from May 8-11

A heart-warming British comedy about an adult tap class is coming to the stage of the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, from May 8-11.

Stepping Out follows the stories of the seven women and one man who every week escape their normal lives to meet up in a church hall for a tap dance class.

They learn from their teacher Mavis, a former professional dancer, tapping away with varying degrees of ability to show tunes played by grumpy accompanist, Mrs Fraser.

Ben Young as Geoffrey and Sian Couture as Vera
Ben Young as Geoffrey and Sian Couture as Vera

When they are given the chance to perform at a public show, they are determined to overcome their fears and do Mavis proud – but there are more than a few comic stumbles along the way before the Mavis Turner Tappers are ready to don top hats and tails.

Show director, and Artistic Director of Irving, Siân Couture, said: “Richard Harris was inspired to write the play after his wife joined a dance class in a local hall and he went along to watch and listen.

“He saw the opportunity to create an ensemble piece that would be very funny and touching – and have some great tap dancing in it as well.

Irving Stage Company's cast for Stepping Out
Irving Stage Company's cast for Stepping Out

“Stepping Out is such a life-affirming play, with a cast of recognisable characters we can laugh out loud with, or feel great sympathy for.

“There are classes like this in every town and in villages in the country, bringing people together at the heart of their community. The play celebrates all those who take part, the relationships they forge and the fun they have. It mirrors what we feel for our company – Irving is a family.”

In its 65 years, the company has presented numerous plays and musicals and given opportunities for generations of people to experience the joy of live performance as actors, singers and dancers – often all three!

“Just as important are our backstage and supporting crew,” said Sian. “Without these loyal people we could not put on our shows – they give their time and their expertise and work together in so many roles as a very slick and cohesive team, and we are very grateful to them.”

Irving Stage Company's Stepping Out
Irving Stage Company's Stepping Out

Leading the class as Mavis is Kate Hiser; the lone male, quiet widower Geoffrey, is played by Ben Young; raucous Sylvia by Camille Berriman; brash Maxine by Hayley Nunn; and well-meaning but tactless Vera, played by Siân Couture.

Completing the line-up are Catherine Willson as anxious, secretive Andy; Katie Woodhouse as shy nurse Lynne; Elizabeth Holland as kindly Rose; and Christian Jenner as nervous Dorothy.

While Sally Boulter is on stage playing the acerbic Yorskhire woman Mrs Fraser, who reluctantly accompanies the class ‘as a favour to the vicar’, live music for the dancers will be performed by pianist Jonathan Gibbs.

Sally Boulter at rehearsal pianist Mrs Fraser
Sally Boulter at rehearsal pianist Mrs Fraser

Sian said: “As in real life, some of the class are more proficient tap dancers than others, but Mavis is determined to help them all improve and be good enough to show off their skills.

“The journey is extremely funny, but at the heart of the show is the pleasure we all feel when we face our fears, work hard to overcome obstacles and reach our personal best. The show takes the audience with it – people really want the tappers to succeed.”

Stepping Out was first performed in London’s West End in 1984, winning the comedy of the year award, and has been revived numerous times since.

It was also filmed in 1991, when the action was moved to the United States and starred Liza Minnelli as Mavis.

Irving Stage Company will be back at the Theatre Royal from November 5-9 with the Broadway classic Guys and Dolls, an enduringly popular show which was revived in London last year to great acclaim.

If you fancy your chances at joining the cast, or would like to help out backstage, pop along to a presentation evening on June 19. This will be followed by auditions on June 24 and 26 – all are welcome. Venue is still to be confirmed, please visit Guys and Dolls - Irving Stage Company for further details.

Stepping Out is at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, Wednesday-Saturday, May 8-11, evenings at 7.30pm, Saturday matinée at 2pm. Call 01284 769505 or visit www.theatreroyal.org

by Christian Jenner