Director Matthew White (who wrote the book with Howard Jacques) tackles the challenge of adapting the musical Top Hat from screen to stage with real style. He uses the art deco sets by Hildegard Bechtler and lush costumes of Jon Morrell to create a flamboyant and opulent atmosphere. The back catalogue of composer Irving Berlin is plundered to more than double the number of songs we hear in the celluloid version.
But the plot is so thin it needs a lot of help: tap dancer Jerry Travers (Tom Chambers) falls for Dale Tremont (Summer Strallen) and pursues her across Europe in order to win her love. Thankfully White is able to secure great performances from supporting cast like Martin Ball, Vivien Parry and Ricardo Afonso who excel both in slapstick and the delivery of marvellously sarcastic dialogue.
White directs with restraint rationing dance set pieces to an extent that, at times, the show seems to sag. Once the cast cut loose, particularly former Strictly Come Dancing star Tom Chambers, it is well worth the wait. His singing might be only adequate but his dancing more than compensates. After some teasing he delivers the full monty with "No Strings, I’m Fancy Free" and the thunderous conclusion to act one is amazing. The likable Chambers generates sympathy for Travers who really is a greasy sort of a chap- basically stalking his prey.
Chambers' strong central performance dominates the first act so that it is not until act two that the stunning Summer Strallen is allowed to show what she can do – which frankly is far too long to wait. It is, however, a joy to see her vamp through "Wild About You."
Choreographer Bill Deamer adapts the screen routines to fit the very different format of the stage. But his work with the songs that were not on the screen is even more impressive. There are moments in "Lets Face the Music and Dance" that not only show how well Chambers and Strallen work together but actually make you want to stand up and cheer.
Top Hat is an example of how to update a much-loved classic in a way that remains true to the spirit of the original.
Top Hat is toe-tappingly good and offers audiences true escapism which is polished to perfection.