The irony behind (most) of the so-called big budget musicals that come “straight from the West End” is that they arrive in the Capital scaled down and without many of the original production’s actors in the lead roles.
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Hats off, then, to Top Hat whose toe-tappingly great show comes to the Festival Theatre featuring every name, costume and piece of stage-set associated with the three-times Olivier award-winning London extravaganza.
Set during the golden age of 1930s Hollywood, it was nice to see a few glamour pusses in the audience dress up for the occasion. Amidst the backdrop of the spectacular art-deco set, this was escapism as its most elegant and refined: telegrams instead of texts, satin dresses instead of skinny jeans – even smoking breathed an air of confidence instead of ill-health. My, how times have changed.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the quality of Irving Berlin’s classic songs – and the choreography, which, it must be said barely moved a millimeter out of sync all night.
There’s a wee bit of a story, too, of course: dapper Broadway star Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt) arrives in London and almost immediately falls in love with equally suave society dame Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch), who, unfortunately, spurns his initially welcome advances following a case of mistaken identity. Add a furiously jealous Italian fashion designer and an indirectly funny valet to the mix and you’re Puttin’ On The Ritz, so to speak.
Joyous, captivating and fancy-free, credit must go to the seamless, grandiose scene changes as much as the dancers. One minute we’re on a horse-drawn carriage to a bandstand under rain, the next we’re in a majestic hotel of eye-opening art-deco splendour.
Naturally, Cheek To Cheek and Let’s Face The Music are the songs most graciously entertained, and there’s no doubt the infectious tap-dancing will make you feel like hammering tacks onto your old shoes after the show.
Still, it’s the Top Hat, White Tie and Tails everyone wants to see, so now would be a good time to think about paying a visit to your local vintage clothing emporium.
• Run ends Saturday, October 18