Do you remember Sunday afternoons in front of the TV watching black and white movies – perhaps starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? If you do you need to go and see Top Hat – if you don’t you still need to go and see Top Hat and see for yourself what your Mum and Dad / Gran and Grandad are always reminiscing about!
Top Hat takes the old Astaire/Rogers movie and brings it to life with a wow! It’s full of colour, music, charm and magic, and the dancing – well……….
The film was Radio-Keith-Orpheum’s (RKO) biggest smash of the thirties and earned the studio over $3 million. It is probably the most famous and well remembered of all the Astaire/Rogers films containing such Irving Berlin classics as “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “Isn’t This a Lovely Day (to Be Caught In The Rain?).” “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and of course the unforgettable “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”
The story is charming and sweet, unbelievable and - well I suppose one could say a little bit old hat really but it works and creates a wonderful atmosphere throughout the show. It creates a platform from which the dancing and singing are launched.
The story tells of Jerry Travers – very well played by Tom Chambers – an American song and dance star comes to England at the request of his friend director Horace Hardwick – played by Martin Ball – to appear in a show. At the hotel he meets and immediately falls in love with Dale Tremont – wonderfully played by Summer Strallen. Needless to say the path of true love does not run smooth, but after some hilarious cases of mistaken identity and a trip to Venice all’s well that ends well.
Chambers and Strallen have the difficult task of taking on the well remembered Astaire and Rogers roles and I have to say that they cope with this brilliantly. They are both believable in the parts they play and their dancing is out of this world. There is a definite chemistry between the two of them which can be felt by the audience – especially when they are dancing. They are ably supported in excellent performances by Martin Ball, Vivien Parry as Madge Hardwick, Ricardo Afonso as Alberto Beddini – the volatile dress designer and hopeful suitor for the hand of Dale Tremont, and a hilarious performance from Stephen Boswell as Bates – the butler cum gentleman’s gentleman. The ensemble of dancers are brilliant – full of colour and life, and the set well designed and providing a vivid background to the action.
Matthew White – Director and also responsible for the stage adaptation of the musical – has done a wonderful job. He has managed to re-create the warmth, elegance and fantasy of the film which of course is fixed in so many people’s memories. He lets the story flow while never allowing the pace to slacken.
Bill Deamer – Choreographer – must have worked so hard to bring us the absolutely dazzling dance routines which we see from start to finish of the show. All the dancers are excellent and provide a wonderful spectacle of colour and movement throughout.
The music, under the direction of Dan Jackson, underpins the whole show. The well remembered tunes flow effortlessly and I don’t think there will be many people leaving the theatre not humming one or other of the melodies. I suspect that most will be dancing inside their heads as well – I certainly was!
I must also mention the outstanding costumes – designed by Jon Morrell. The colour, the glitter and the glamour of the 1930’s outfits are breath-taking. Who could fail to feel anything but feminine and glamorous in those wonderful gowns? They flow and fall in waterfalls of pleats, flounces and gathers to become part of the dancers’ movements.
This show is running until 31st of March – make sure you don’t miss it. It’s one of those rare shows that is suitable for all the family, and I suspect will be enjoyed by every age.