REVIEW: MMAS 'taps' local talent in 'Stepping Out'

Charlene McNeilRehearsing for MMAS’s production of “Stepping Out” are, from left, Cindy McCarron, Judy Wahl, Atia Gravely, Glenn Fournier, Judi Kotta, Stacy Kernweiss, Julie Cline, Alicia Rivera, and Rachel Morandi.

MANSFIELD - Question: What do you get when you throw 10 strangers together once a week for tap dancing lessons? Answer: A gamut of personality clashes and more left feet than you can count.

Such is the case in MMAS's current production, Richard Harris' "Stepping Out," directed by Barbara Pettis. Billed as a comedy, but better described as a "dramedy," the entire plot of "Stepping Out" unfolds in the hall of a church rented by a tap dance teacher who weekly brings a hodgepodge of students together, resulting in an interesting examination of the human spirit.

Stacy Kernweis plays Mavis the dance instructor as perpetually composed and eternally patient. Kernweis's Mavis is graceful in movement and demeanor.

It's not until Act 2 that the audience realizes that some of her demeanor is manufactured as a coping mechanism. Kernweis does a nice job with the character, especially in the jazz/ballet dance solo scene.

As the piano player Mrs. Fraser, Doreen Tighe does a fine job both playing the piano and delivering pithy lines.

Alicia Marie Rivera believably portrays the gentle Lynn, a character who is young, eager to please and genuinely sweet.

MMAS regular Judi Cotta is perfectly cast as Dorothy, a simple yet exuberant soul who lights up every scene she is in.

Julie Cline effectively tackles the somewhat jaded role of Maxine, a woman who takes the class to find the woman buried beneath her daily roles of wife and mother.

Glenn Fournier plays Geoffrey, the lone man in the group, with aplomb. Naturally, much of the humor is aimed at his lack of estrogen and he handles both the jokes and the drama quite capably.

As the shy and enigmatic Andy, Atia Gravely turns in a fine performance of the cast's "wounded bird." Gravely's character is obviously drawn to Fournier's "Geoffrey" and the two share excellent chemistry together.

As the controlling neat freak Vera, Cindy McCarron is cast perfectly. McCarron's character is the one you love to hate, and she succeeds in every scene to convey that.

Rachel Morandi flawlessly plays the self-deprecating Sylvia. Morandi has the comic timing and a rough-around-the-edges approach that make her Sylvia a pleasure to watch.

As the high-spirited Rose, Judy Wahl is also fun to watch. Wahl's Rose is sassy, down to earth and just plain funny.

The entire cast had to not only learn their lines, but also had to learn to tap dance. They did a good job with the tap numbers, choreographed by Karen Anderson, and were well costumed by Anne-Marie Lambert, in a look taken straight out of dance apparel giant Danskin.

"Stepping Out" runs weekends through April 5. Reservations can be made by calling 508-399-2822 or visiting MMAS.org.

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