Friday, 25 October 2013

I've got a great big amount saved up in my love account

We finally decided to get around to seeing the multi-award-winning musical Top Hat last night, before it closes this weekend. We were most definitely not disappointed!

Based (of course) on the classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie from 1935 (and everyone should know how much we adore them!), the stage production pulled out all the stops to re-create the magical, impossibly luxurious Art Deco world of those uplifting RKO musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The sets were beautiful, the costumes sumptuous and the choreography as close to the Hermes Pan original as humanly possible.

Of course, as is to be expected of the "screwball comedies" of that era, the plot was as flimsy as can be - boy meets girl; mistaken identity means boy loses girl; boy's buffoonish sidekick (Clive Hayward as the bumbling "Horace Hardwick"), his battleaxe wife (the excellent Vivien Parry as "Madge", one of the show's best characters), the "comedy Italian" ("Alberto Beddini", played with gusto by Russell Leighton Dixon) and the wily butler (the dry-as-dust Stephen Boswell as "Bates") provide a humorous foil to the story; and all ends happily ever after.

The jokes were totally corny (although some one-liners were hilariously delivered) and no-one could ever expect anything as complicated as "character development". But who the hell needs those when what you want is to be swept away in the glittering visual spectacle of it all?

Our leads Gavin Lee (as "Jerry Travers") and Broadway's own Kristen Beth Williams (as "Dale Tremont") were positively faultless as they swept and swooshed and tapped their way through some of the best dance numbers of all time - the songbook of the maestro Irving Berlin.

All the great man's classics were here - Dancing Cheek to Cheek, Let's Face The Music And Dance, Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)?, I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket and of course Top Hat, White Tie and Tails - and each was executed with a breathtaking show of dance genius.

The comic numbers (Dale's "vamp number" Wild About You, Horace and Madge's bitchy and bittersweet Outside Of That, I Love You and Beddini's Latins Know How being singular highlights) provided a fab contrast to the glitter, and the ensemble pieces (The Piccolino, the Venice ball and the hotel lobby scenes in particular) simply filled the stage with chiffon, exquisite tailoring and tight boys' buns. We like that.

One of the most spectacular musicals we've seen in ages, Top Hat was simply marvellous!

This show won three Laurence Olivier awards including Best New Musical, and the Evening Standard "Best Night Out" award. I cannot understand why on earth it has decided to close early, but yet again, maybe the typical West End audience is more interested in "jukebox musical" pop fluff and "star vehicles" than classy Hollywood glamour.

Their loss.

Top Hat closes in the Aldwych Theatre in the West End tomorrow (26th October 2013), but will embark on a nationwide tour thereafter.

I'm so pleased we got to see it...


  1. why it looks like it was divine!

    we just saw the west end's production of sondheim's
    "merrily we roll along" wednesday night at the movie theatre.
    'twas lovely.

    1. It was indeed divine (let's hope this version crosses the pond) - and I am overjoyed you got to see Merrily We Roll Along. As you know, we thought it was outstanding! Jx

    2. yes, that's precisely the cast we saw. just delightful!


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