Top Hat

Oct 8 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Top that!

Festival Theatre Tues 7 – Sat 18 Oct 2014

For escapist enjoyment and immense spectacle, Top Hat would be hard to beat.

A big dance scene from Top Hat

A big dance scene from Top Hat

The big-budget touring production deserves every one of the awards it won in its previous West End incarnation. Although some of it may not stand up to close scrutiny, there can be no denying its infectious charm.

The 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, with music by Irving Berlin, has been adapted for the stage by Howard Jacques and director Matthew White. Broadway hoofer Jerry Travers meets and falls for Dale Tremont while in London. However, Dale believes that Jerry is actually Horace Hardwick, the husband of her friend Madge and producer of Jerry’s show.

This mistaken-identity idea is really the sum total of the plot, but there is no shortage of entertainment. As well as songs from the film such as the title song or Cheek to Cheek, the addition of other Berlin compositions like Puttin’ On The Ritz and Let’s Face The Music and Dance means that there is a constant supply of big production numbers.

These routines are the evening’s highlight, with a large, superbly-drilled chorus, a fleet-footed orchestra, tremendous light, sound and scenery, and as many costume changes as you could wish for.

While the shadow of Fred and Ginger is bound to hang over the production, this is soon dispelled by the performances of the two leads, notably the excellent Alan Burkitt as Jerry. Aside from the odd Astaire-like vocal mannerism, he puts his own stamp on the role rather than providing an impersonation.

the sheer joy of his dancing

What is reminiscent of the original is the sheer joy of his dancing, gliding seemingly effortlessly across the floor as if it was the most natural thing in the world and there is nothing else he would rather be doing.

Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch. Photo: Production

Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch. Photo: Production

Charlotte Gooch’s Dale provides an excellent foil, and their song-and-dance duets on Cheek to Cheek and Let’s Face The Music display a real chemistry and are about as good as you are ever going to see. Their acting performances are also suitably winning and frothy, which means that the gaps between the dances speed by.

The standard of dancing throughout is frighteningly high, with Bill Deamer’s choreography ensuring there is always style and pizzazz to spare.

The production’s main drawback, however, is that this is really a dance revue with occasional bursts of acting rather than a fully realised musical. The plot is even flimsier than might be expected, while a lop-sided structure means that the second half outstays its welcome by a good quarter of an hour.

A scene from Top Hat

A scene from Top Hat

The revision of the book really should have done something about the dated attitudes on display – some sexist jokes should have been left unrevived, while one of the main roles depends for its impact on the notion that foreigners are intrinsically funny. As a result, the obviously gifted Sebastien Torkia is wasted as Beddini, investing the role with an energy and grace it frankly doesn’t deserve.

His spot-on timing is shared by the other performers, with Rebecca Thornhill a sparky Madge and Clive Hayward able to wring very last drop of humour from her husband Horace. John Conroy, as Horace’s valet Bates, is a delight, with his deadpan manner contrasting with his ludicrous attempts at disguise.

Despite the shortcomings of the storyline, and despite any reservations about having yet another musical that is drawn from an old film rather than displaying any originality, it would be churlish to deny the impact of this production. For simple entertainment value, it cannot be recommended highly enough. Whether you think you like musicals or not, for a great evening out this would be hard to top.

Running time 2 hours 45 minutes including interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT
Run ends Saturday 18 October 2014
Evenings Tues – Fri 7.30 pm, Matinee Wed, Thurs, Sat 2.30 pm
Further details and tickets from:

Top Hat on tour:
Tue 7 – Sat 18 Oct Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tue 21 Oct – Sat 1 Nov Wolverhampton
Grand Theatre
01902 429212 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 15 Nov Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
Tue 18 – Sat 29 Nov Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
Tue 2 – Sat 13 Dec Glasgow
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7647 Book online
23 Dec 2014 – Sun 11 Jan 2015 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
Wed 14 – Sat 24 Jan 2015 Cardiff
Wales Millennium Centre
029 2063 6464 Book online
Wed 28 Jan – Sat 7 Feb 2015 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 21 Feb 2015 Manchester
Opera House
0844 871 3018 Book online
Tue 24 Feb – Sat 7 Mar 2015 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 21 Mar 2015 Birmingham
0844 338 5000 Book online
Tue 31 Mar – Sat 11 Apr 2015 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
Tue 14 – Sat 25 Apr 2015 Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
Tue 28 Apr – Sat 9 May 2015 Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 230440 Book online
Tue 12 – Sat 23 May 2015 Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Jul 2015 Eastbourne
Congress Theatre
01323 412000 Book online
Wed 24 Jun – Sat 4 Jul 2015 Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 18 Jul 2015 Woking
New Victoria
0844 871 7645 Book online


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