Before the curtains finally close for Repertory Philippines’ adaptation of the acclaimed theatrical play Stepping Out, we decided to walk you through this musical.
Starring Bituin Escalante, Joy Virata, Natalie Everette, Cara Barredo, EJ Villacorta, Raymund Concepcion, Christine Flores, Shiela Francisco, David Shaun Delgado, Sarah Facuri, and Angela Padilla, the play is about eight students, one teacher and a pianist, who attend a tapping dance class once a week at a church hall and have found themselves discovering and sharing problems. In the end they realized that the dance class is a big help for them to conquer their own realities. This is based on the original comedy playwright written by Richard Harris and directed by Jaime del Mundo and musical director Ejay Yatco.
As the story goes, the characters’ backgrounds began to surface; a battered wife who felt comfort in the arms of a widower, a man who’s trying to revive his late wife’s memories, an old maid looking for love but was trapped in the hands of her invalid mother, a nurse taking care of old ladies in a home, a gossiper, a lady with a frank attitude and an obsession on germs, an overweight girl with difficulties in dancing, an instructor with a lazy husband, and a hotheaded pianist.
It is an all-Filipino ensemble and people really appreciated that the production included some familiar faces like Escalante and Virata. All cast members can sing and belt out of their pipes. Each of the character’s stage presence is evident and no one seemed to mind how the costumes are awkwardly looking especially when Ms. Joy went on-stage wearing a silver spandex.
Of course, there’s no way Bituin wouldn’t be magnificent in her own craft – i.e. singing one of the most memorable songs of the play, Don’t Ask Me, in Act 1. She is stunning and effortlessly talented as always and her performance is just an addition to the list of her powerful renditions.
Let us not forget how the cast made us feel that tap dancing is as easy as it looks. Everyone tap danced here and there without any troubles, making every sound and every move distinct. There is no way they are not pro especially during the grand finale.
These veteran theater actors did not fail to portray their roles in such a way that when the scene requires them to be funny, angry, frustrated, pained, anguished, gloomy, and happy, they could pull it off without breaking a sweat. This what keeps the audience glued to their seats, waiting for events to unfold.
None of the songs actually stuck inside our heads after the show, even though the performances are spectacular. Some of the characters are not given well enough spotlight for them to shine, like Mrs. Fraser (Shiela Francisco), who could’ve also been given a more distinct role than just playing a grumpy old woman. Her character did not flourish into something else and her story is not polished.
At some points, things became blurry when conflict after the conflict started to arise. There is no clear resolution on how the dance class helped them resolve their issues, aside from it being a therapy for them. In just a snap, after a quarrel, everything went back to normal with them practicing the routines for their upcoming performance in a charity event. In just a snap, we are left wondering how did some of them overcome their fear. In just a snap, they have pulled off their dance successfully.
Nevertheless, Stepping Out is definitely an entertainer. There could be improvements on how to tell the story for the audience to understand each issue even more.
The shows ran from April 1-24 at Onstage Theater, Greenbelt 1, Makati City, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:30 p.m.