Experts can be wrong.
Just ask performer Suzy London.
About two decades ago, after sustaining multiple injuries in an accident, multiple doctors predicted the worst.
According to them, London had better hang up her dancing shoes…for good. In fact, she’d been told she’d probably never even walk again.
But this hoofer had chutzpah and would have none of their nonsense.
There was a lot more dancing for London to do, so recover she did.
As Mavis, in The Group Repertory Theatre’s current production of “Stepping Out”, London’s love for dancing shines as brightly as the glittery costumes the cast adorns in the play’s finale.
She can’t remember a time when she didn’t love dance. As a child in Illinois, London began taking lessons at age three.
“I was one of those kids who came out of the womb singing and dancing,” she jokes.
Although her parents appreciated music and dance, neither of them was professionally linked to the entertainment industry. So her father, a successful engineer, was surprised by London’s eventual career choice.
However, her parents were fully supportive, adding to London’s already determined outlook.
With her talent, good looks and charisma, it wasn’t long before she was touring the globe along with other performers, or on her own, with her revue Suzy London and Legs.
Professionally, she knew she had arrived when she found herself performing at Berns (Berns Salonger), Stockholm’s revered historical establishment, which dates back to 1863. Amongst the many notable entertainers, who had also graced the stage over the years, were celebrities such as Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra. (Next month, Nas will present a greatly anticipated concert there.)
Her career continued going strong, with a variety of theatrical performances strengthening her repertoire.
Then, London was struck by another setback, when she was severely injured by a runaway vehicle four years ago.
Doctors predicted, once again, she was doomed. She’d lost the use of her left arm, and she couldn’t walk.
But London was determined to dance again, and so she did everything in her power to help herself heal. It was a painstaking and painful process, which included hours and hours of physical therapy.
So too, prayer and meditation were a big part of that process, which eventually ensured she’d achieve her goal.
As a company member of The Group Rep, London was more than a bit enthusiastic when the theatre decided to include “Stepping Out” as one of the productions in its regular season. She wanted so much to prove she could dance onstage again. So she set her sights on the part of Mavis, and she landed the role.
However, this play is not ALL about dancing; London also gets to tap into her acting talent. Rather, “Stepping Out” is an exploration into the relationships among a group of quirky individuals who come together because of dance and unite.
Written in 1984 by Englishman Richard Harris, “Stepping Out” was produced in the West End of London before opening on Broadway in 1987, where it had a brief run at the John Golden Theatre. A film by the same name, and based on the play, was produced in 1991, starring Liza Minnelli as Mavis.
Surprisingly, some of the cast members in The Group Rep’s production had never even taken dance lessons! However, it’s difficult to guess which ones after director and choreographer Stan Mazin took them under his wing.
Still, while watching a couple of rehearsals, producer Linda Alznauer felt some trepidation. Since, casting is nearly always done from within the repertory company, the lack of dance experience could have proved disastrous.
However, similar to the characters in Harris’ play, the cast proved triumphant in learning to tap.
“The actors came together on their own journey,” Alznauer said, “and through their energy and effort, they succeeded.”
(“Stepping Out” runs through Sunday, March 24, 2013. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood 91601. Phone: (818) 763-5990)