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Top Hat

The musical staging of Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger's silver screen hit which, at nearly 70 years old, has become a classic.


Having spent the last year on tour around the country, Top Hat has now moved to the Aldwych Theatre in London's West End. It's described as a 'screwball comedy' that follows American dancer Jerry Travers, played by Strictly winner Tom Chambers. Jerry is opening a show in London produced by Horace Hardwick. Late, on the evening before the show, he wakes up Dale Tremont by tap dancing in the room above her. After a confrontation he falls hopelessly in love but the next day she mistakes him for Horace, husband to her friend Madge. A farcical case of mistaken identity continues with some excellent and hilarious characters, including Madge herself.

The theatre scene is currently saturated with these film-to-stage musicals and I thought that Top Hat may fall in the bargain bin of quality along with Dirty Dancing and Flashdance. This is, thankfully, totally different. The lavish sets by Hildergard Bechtler are so decadent that it's easy to get sucked into the charm of the period. It's rather tacky to say "no expense spared" but in this case I think I'll risk the cliché. In 1935 the film cost $620,000, rather a lot in those days.

There are some classy performances from the cast. Tom Chambers is very likeable as Jerry and a wonderful dancer leading the ensemble through well choreographed tap routines. Summer Strallen plays Dale with a feisty beauty and endless class. Part of the Strallen dynasty her older sister Scarlett is currently the female lead in Singin' in the Rain with Zizi, her younger sister, in Rock of Ages. Camper still their aunt is Bonnie Langford... Hardwick's butler "Bates" played by Stephan Boswell was a favourite of mine. Having been sent to spy on Dale, Bates appears in many disguises delivering some excellent one liners and making a little appearance in drag, marvellous.

Top Hat is not what I believed to be "my type" of show. I normally get bored of endless dance numbers and silly romantic plots but I was won over here. The show is well executed and performed with such gusto and charm that you can't help but smile. At times I got tired with the romance but the quick pace means its difficult to get anywhere near bored. It's a delectable, fast paced and well executed tribute to the iconic film, with some really hot guys in tails....

4/5

Top Hat is at the Aldwych Theatre, London, until 26 January 2013. Details and tickets here.

Words: James Nowell

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