Top Hat (Tour-Bristol Hippodrome)

Top Hat is a classy evening with the hits constantly arriving.

Charlotte Gooch (Dale) and Alan Burkitt (Jerry) in Top Hat playing at Bristol Hippodrome
Charlotte Gooch (Dale) and Alan Burkitt (Jerry) in Top Hat playing at Bristol Hippodrome
(© Max Lacombe)

Based on the 1935, Rodgers and Astair acclaimed movie, the latest interpretation of Irving Berlin’s Top Hat screams class and elegance. The production has landed three Olivier awards, for Best Choreography, Best Costumes and – to top it off – the jackpot, Best New Musical – and it’s not hard to see why!

Right from the word go the glamorous costumes and relentless razzle-dazzle take your breath away. Alan Burkitt, taking on Astair’s role of Jerry Travers and Charlotte Gooch, as Roger’s own Dale Tremont, make the perfect pair. Burkitt glides across the stage effortlessly, charmingly sweeping each character off their feet. With what have to be the longest legs in the business, Gooch is graceful and agile. Leaping and bounding off each other’s every line,
dance move and witticism, the couple take to the stage like they were born to play these roles.

However, it is not, in fact, the main characters that are the true stars of this production. The stand-out performances come from Sebastien Torkia, who played Dan in the film adaption of Joseph, as the exuberantly camp designer, Alberto Beddini and John Conroy, who has performed in over ten West End shows and several more notable stage productions, as the particular and comedic valet, Bates. The two take to their roles with such jocularity that, at one point, I fear I might split a side. However, noteworthy performances are given from all cast members and the continuous humour carries the show in between its spectacular dance numbers.

The first act, the cast do take a little while to warm into their respective roles. Some of the jokes feel a little stilted and a couple of the dance numbers aren’t completely synchronised, which in tap dancing shoes, is unfortunately all too noticeable. However, this poor timing is short lived and by the time the title number arrives at end of the act 1, the performance is astoundingly seamless. The choreography, by Bill Deamer, is a true specticle and ties in effortlessly with the music. There are very few audience experiences that quite compare to seeing an all singing, all dancing, tap-company performing in complete harmony and synchronisation to arguably one of the most renowned musical songs of the last century.

To add to this, an extravagant set exemplifies the lavish, sumptuousness of the period and is perfectly designed to utilise various different stages across the country. A fabulous example of this comes at the beginning of the showcase, with a perfectly synchronised shadow of Travers, appearing above Tremont’s bedchamber, dancing in time with Burkitt, who performs in the foreground of the scene. This beautiful sight cleverly enables two corresponding scenes to be acted out, simultaneously.

Moving into the second act, the farcical storyline becomes more and more pronounced,
using slapstick and wit in perfect balance. Filled with classics, from ‘Putting on the Ritz’ to ‘Cheek to Cheek’, Top Hat is the perfect pick-me-up for any musical-buff’s week. Glitzy and glamorous routines, padded out with rib-tickling comedy, and a romantic storyline, you will never want the show to end. So don your top hats and dig out your white tie and tails,
because this is one production you won’t want to miss.