music and lyrics by Irving Berlin based on the RKO film adapted by Matthew White & Howard Jacques based on the screenplay by Dwight Taylor & Allan Scott.
Aldwych Theatre 49 Aldwych WC2B 4DF To 26 October 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Tue, Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1712.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 July.
Top-hole musical theatre confection.
There may be trouble around, as well as ahead, but, whether it’s mid-1930s America hauling itself from the Great Depression or modern Austerity Britain, “while there’s moonlight And music and love and romance” there’s no better music to face than Irving Berlin’s score for Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and assembled company in this cocoon of affluence.
Top Hat starts on showbiz heights as song-and-dance star Jerry Travers ends a Broadway run before transporting himself to a smart London hotel and flying down to Venice to pursue glamorous Dale Tramont. It’s the usual Astaire-Rogers scenario, love labouring to overcome initial annoyance (hers) at chirpy behaviour (his), though it now recalls the start of Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood’s romance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, his musical party in the room above keeping her awake at night.
In a crafty theatrical adaptation Jerry’s late-night shimmying is duplicated by a shadow figure on a platform above the bed where Kirsten Beth Williams’ Dale is trying to sleep. Plot complications spin around Dale taking Jerry for his theatrical producer Horace, and her anger at being pursued by a man she believes to be her friend’s husband. Clive Hayward might have walked straight from the period’s Aldwych Farces as the put-upon Horace, while Vivien Parry is elegantly self-possessed as his wife, with most of the best marriage lines.
Comedy offsets romance, and complicates it as Alex Gaumond negotiates the funny foreigner role, bringing diplomatic energy to the man who has designs on Dale. Literally; she displays his latest fashion creations to the millionaires among whom she moves. Intriguingly, while Jerry and Dale move through difficulties to inevitable union, the Hardwicks denounce marriage in a series of smart one-liners.
Sensibly neither Williams nor Gavin Lee, current holders of the lovers’ roles, try to become their great originals, but they give fine performances – plenty of smiles and glistening teeth (him), or flashing legs (her, in a deliberate vamp-dance) amid Bill Deamer’s elegant choreography and Hildegard Bechtler’s equally elegant hotel settings and Venetian prospect as a splendid company all help create the music and dance.
Jerry Travers: Gavin Lee.
Dale Tremont: Kirsten Beth Williams.
Horace Hardwick: Clive Hayward.
Madge Hardwick: Vivien Parry.
Alberto Beddini: Alex Gaumond.
Bates: Stephen Boswell.
Maid/Lido Guest: Michelle Andrews.
Hotel Guest/Swing: Caroline Bateson, Holly Rostron, Callum Train, Matt Gillett.
Cab Driver/Hotel Guest: Jeremy Batt.
Florist’s Assistant/Italian Maid: Charlie Bull.
Shadow Jerry/Speciality Dancer: Alan Burkitt.
Hotel Porter/Italian Waiter: Matthew Cheney, Aron Wild.
Hotel Guest/Featured Chanteuse/Countess: Louise Davidson.
Maurice/Italian Singer/Skipper: Russell-Leighton Dixon.
Doorman/Lido Guest: Jonny Godbold
Policeman/Assistant Hotel Manager: Ian Goss.
Hotel Guest/Italian Waiter: Alyn Hawke.
Speciality Dancer/Hotel Guest: Lauren Jade.
English/Italian Hotel Managers/George: Paul Kemble.
Hotel Guest/Lido Guest: Jenny Legg.
Hotel Guest/Cab Driver: Martin McCarthy.
Hotel Receptionist/Lido Guest: Grace McKee.
Broadway Chorine/Hotel Guest: Debbie Paul, Alexandra Waite-Roberts.
Maid/Lido Guest: Lois Urwin.
Concierge/Florist/Head Waiter: Graham Vick.
Director: Matthew White.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Orchestrator/Arranger: Chris Walker.
Additional Vocal arrangements/Musical Director: Dan Jackson.
Musical Supervisor: Richard Balcombe.
Choreographer: Bill Deamer.
Costume: Jon Morrell.
Hair/Wigs: Campbell Young.
Resident Director: Fenton Gray.
Resident choreographer: Kylie Anne Cruikshanks.
Associate sound: Davy Ogilvy.
Dance Captains: Jenny Legg, Martin McCarthy.
Assistant Musical director: Mike Steele.