Top Hat, 4****, London

Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin.
Book by Matthew White & Howard Jacques
Based on the RKO Motion Picture.


Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 28 January 2018.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat 27, 28, 29 & 30 Dec 3pm 31 Dec 4pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8340 3488

Tap those winter blues away in style
The Christmas musicals at the Gatehouse directed by John Plews are always splendid affairs, proof that not everything glamorous and glitzy happens on Shaftesbury Avenue. This year’s one is no exception. Strongly cast, smartly dressed, and well danced it has, of course, those Berlin songs to help it soar. The book – adapted from the Rogers and Astaire film – is no great shakes, but neither was the script of the film, much criticised at the time for being flimsy. But it doesn’t matter. As with the film the production, the performances and the songs carry the show to success.

The plot is simple. American dancer Jerry Travers (Joshua Lay tapping away splendidly) in London to perform in a new show annoys the girl in the hotel room below his by rehearsing late at night. The girl, Dale Tremont (Joanne Clifton who does everything Ginger did) mistakes him for his boss Horace Hardwick (Darren Benedict playing the obligatory silly ass role with panache), who happens to be married to her best friend Madge (a glamorous Ellen Verenieks doing the tough American broad dropping wisecracks all over the place to perfection). They all end up in Venice and everything ends happily with a glorious comedy number from Verniers and Benedict and lots of top hats and tails on the rest of the cast. On the way you get to put on the Ritz, dance the Piccolino cheek to cheeks have a lovely day in the rain and face the music and dance.

It is all done with great zest, the energetic ensemble high kick and play all the other parts with style, and Marcus J Foreman, who gets to play Jerry’s dresser, has his moment. Left alone at the makeup table he looks at his image in the glass, turns and give us his Richard 111. Not his Mae West!

I have one tiny quibble and it may well have been sorted by now, but the excellent band is a shade too loud for the tap dance numbers. The music drowns the taps and for those to work perfectly the tapping has to float over the melody. Either the orchestrations are a shade too strong or it is a blip in the sound design – or possibly the dance floor itself has a tricky surface for tapping. It doesn’t matter that much, but the debonair Lay can tap dance and the full effect doesn’t always come across. Mind you in movies they sometimes recorded the taps specially. But I do quibble. This is as good as anyone has any right to expect.

Jerry Travers: Joshua Lay.
Dale Tremont: Joanne Clifton.
Horace Hardwick: Darren Benedict.
Madge Hardwicke: Ellen Verenieks.
Alberto Beddini: Matthew James Willis.
Bates: Samuel Haughton.
Dance Captain/Maid: Leanne Groutage.
Hotel Receptionist: Olivia Sinclair.
Reporter/Florist/Maid: Grace Usher.
Mauricio/London Hotel Manager: Rhys Ashcroft.
Porter/Jerry’s Dresser/Waiter: Marcus J Foreman.
Concierge/Venice Hotel Manager: Grant Jackson.

Director: John Plews.
Musical Director: Charlie Ingles.
Sound Designer: Nico Menghini.
Costume Supervisor: Joseph Hodges.
Choreographer: Christ Whittaker.
Designer: Emily Bestow.
Lighting Designer: Sam Waddington.
Musical Orchestrator: Dan Glover.
Voice Coach: Eleanor Boyce.

2017-12-18 10:27:50

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