We are lucky we live in an age where we get to see Liza just keep on going. If there was ever a reason to keep on living, it would be the knowledge that Liza just might return to a home shopping channel for a good solid hour or two of gay genius. It's fun to laugh WITH Liza and easy to do also, but you got to give it up to her. She is here. We are queer. And we love her. In the late eighties/early nineties, Liza launched a full scale comeback complete with a kick ass and hugely successful(in Europe) album called RESULTS, which featured the gay anthem and live changing song "Don't Drop Bombs". YouTube the video. Your life will change. For serious. And on the tail end of her comeback she took a play from Richard Harris called STEPPING OUT and honey, you better step aside, cuz this movie is the SHIT! All Tapping, All Drama and All Liza!!!
Mavis Turner has had it. She is on the verge of being a total wash up. Her marriage is on the skids, her career is going nowhere fast and life is turning into not being the cabaret she dreamt it would be. But she has her teaching. Renting out an old dance studio and renting out an even older piano player, the amazing Shelley Winters, she taps her blues away or at least tries, as she sets out to transform a handful of misfit soft shoers to tap dancing machines. The students vary in age, size, gender and attitudes. It is basically a cookie cutter model of your typical misfits. The loud mouth, the pretty girl, the large black lady, the nerd, the lonely guy, the punk rock girl, the old lady...you get the picture. Casting is key in gathering a group like this and STEPPING OUT does it justice. Surrounding Liza with great character actors, just heightens her acting skills and gives her many different people to bounce off of. You have Julie Walters to a very, very young Jane Krakowski, who has to be one of the most amazing dancers on 30 Rock. Sister can Kick it!
When Mavis learns that Pam, wonderfully played by Nora Dunn, is going to stage a huge charity event for SAVE THE CHILDREN (from what, we are never told) and wants to include her "little" group, Mavis seizes the chance to change everyone lives and just maybe her own. It turns into a very REMEMBER MY NAME moment. Trouble is, the students are the WORST. Like the worst of the worst. Basically, it is like me if I were in a tap class, but the only difference is they actually start to improve. As the big show quickly approaches we are treated to lots of Diva freak outs, a car crash, some genuine laughs and some not so genuine laughs and one amazing "learning to tap" all over the city montages. God, I love a good montage. I wish all movies had them. Hat Montages are usually the best, but tap dancing ones are just as good!
The movie is super charming and a joy to watch. It's uplifting and sentimental without being sugary sweet. Liza is really trying to go for a gritty tap teacher. She smokes throughout the whole thing. I think every single scene as an ashtray in it. But she looks great while doing it. I swear, Kevyn Aucoin is hiding behind every single piece of the set, so he can pop out and touch Liza up, cuz she looks GOOD the whole movie. Screaming, sweating, nailing a tap routine or smoking, she looks good. Life lessons, people. Do it and just look good. It's not hard, really. If Liza can fucking do it, we all should be able too.
There are three killer moments in STEPPING OUT that will make your gay mind explode and the best part is that they are very strategically placed so just when you are about to get bored, STEPPING OUT hits you and leaves you breathless, then just as you start to recover, BAM! STEPPING OUT gets you again.
The first killer moment is very early in the movie, when Liza is alone in the dance studio and does a solo dance number that seems to last at least 15 minutes. Not long enough if you ask me. Some high stepping and kicking. MERCY!
The second killer moment is when all the students are still struggling with their moves and Liza has had it. With a smoke in one hand, she reads the children to filth, storms out, comes back in and apologizes then does it all over again! DOUBLE DIVA FREAK OUT!!! People, life is good when you watch STEPPING OUT.
And as all divas do, they save the best for last. Liza's group of tappers take to the stage and mount an amazing display of goofiness and grace fullness as they tap for their lives and prove practice makes perfect if Liza is your teacher. BUT!!!! It is a fake ending, cuz after the audience loses their shit over the performance, Liza exclaims, "Well, if you thought we were good this year, just wait til NEXT YEAR!!"
FLASH FORWARD a year later and we get a slam bang, slap your grandma so good ending that you will be cheering! And Liza is in PJ's!!
Struggling to find an audience in actual theaters, STEPPING OUT did just that and right onto home video and cover boxes gathered dust in video stores across the country. Little did anyone know that this little slice of quality gay cinema was right in their grasp. For the lucky ones who have witnessed its magic, you know the truth. For those that haven't, THE TIME IS NOW!!!