It’s Liza-as-you-love-her in Stepping Out, a modest heartwarmer about a bunch of suburban left-feeters getting it together for a charity dance spot. Fragile ensemble item often creaks under the Minnelli glitz, but results are likeable enough.
Adapted by Richard Harris from his 1984 award-winning play, action is switched from a London church hall to a Buffalo, NY, equivalent. Minnelli is a former pro hoofer who’s now teaching amateur dance classes on the side.
Her current group includes a snooty Brit with a cleanliness fixation (Julie Walters), a shy plain Jane with a bossy husband (Sheila McCarthy), a pretty, disillusioned young nurse (Jane Krakowski) and a working-class pants-chaser (Robyn Stevan).
Minnelli’s problems start when her grumpy accompanist (Shelley Winters) threatens to walk out. She’s then invited to put together an amateur tap routine for a charity show.
Minnelli’s lost none of her pizzazz. Looking as fresh-faced and gamine as ever, and in good voice and shape, she provides the pic’s emotional highs in a solo dance spot and the finale’s John Kander-Fred Ebb title song, but as an actress, she’s one-note perky. Technically, the Toronto-lensed pic is solid.