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Top Hat (Southampton)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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A strong air of nostalgia fills the theatre as soon as the accomplished orchestra, superbly directed by Dan Jackson strikes up the overture. Many of the audience have donned their long evening gowns and dinner jackets to celebrate the true ambience of a refined and courteous time long forgotten.

Technically the show is a triumph. Numerous yet seamless set changes ensure the audience never once departs from the sheer glamour and glitz of this 1930’s recreation. The subtle, mood changing lighting and special effects smoothly transport you through each scene. The sound system is perfect, every word can be heard and where in some productions the orchestra can overpower the solo artists, this is certainly not the case.

Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen play the leading characters convincingly. It would be unfair to compare this talented duo to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, who of course remain iconic in these roles. They do however bring their own touch of magic and have you eating out of their hands right up until the well deserved standing ovation. It is difficult to imagine that Tom Chambers could not dance until his Strictly Come Dancing victory.

For pure unadulterated spectacle, the big ensemble numbers cannot be bettered. They are high energy, well polished and incredibly slick in both song and dance. The beautifully balanced harmonies are delightfully reminiscent of the period, evoking memories of early phonograph melodies.

The first act climaxes with the show stopping, toe tapping ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’ which includes the whole company tap dancing in perfect unison. The opening of the second act, set on the canal edge in Venice, is equally captivating with many cameo roles perfectly synchronised to provide a vibrant and arresting scene.

Martin Ball as Horace Hardwick and Vivien Parry as Madge, his acid tongued long suffering wife, compliment each other with their superb comic timing, bringing their love/hate relationship to hilarious life.

Stephen Boswell as Bates is truly inspirational, reminding me of Gielgud at his very best. He oozes comedy from every pore and as soon as he appears on stage one is filled with humorous anticipation.

Ricardo Afonso plays the over-emotional and ‘hammy’ Italian dress designer magnificently, overacting at every opportunity.

This is a delightful example of dance, song and comedy all rolled into one enormous explosion of sheer escapism. Not to be missed.


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