Based on RKO’s motion picture starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Top Hat arrives in London’s West End having been adapted for the stage by Matthew White and Howard Jacques. Irving Berlin’s timeless music and lyrics remain largely unaltered, allowing the show to follow the track beaten out by London’s recent revivals such as Singin’ in the Rain and Crazy For You. I was pleasantly surprised to discover throughout the evening that this film was the source of many old-time songs, such as ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’.
The last show I saw at the Aldwych was a dance spectacle in the form of Dirty Dancing, and it was the dancing that stole the show in this production also, though obviously in a very different style. I was in awe of the stamina of this singing and dancing cast, particularly that of the protagonists played by Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen. The story revolves around these two lovebirds; Jerry Travers, the seasoned Broadway singing dancer and Dale Tremont, the sassy socialite who captures the heart of the former. If I am being completely honest, the singing was not always spot on for my money, but the dancing, which was captivating and graceful throughout, more than made up for it. All due credit must be ascribed to choreographer Bill Deamer for creating such a visual delight. Standout comic performances were also given by Vivien Parry, who played the even sassier friend of Dale, and Stephen Boswell, who played Bates, a long-suffering butler who drew roars of laughter from the audience with his line delivery and peculiar costumes.
The staying power of a classic musical, for me, lies in how engaging the plot is. Unfortunately, for my tastes, this plot swung a little too loosely between the sublime and the ridiculous, and I found it unnecessarily long-winded towards the end. However, the show is a triumph of classic choreography and ensemble performance, and it certainly ticks all the boxes as far as a family-friendly production is concerned. If you wish to kick back and reminisce about a golden age of Sunday afternoon films, then this is the show for you.
Opens officially from Wednesday 9 May, book tickets here.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Mark McCloskey.