Sunday, 24 February 2013

Top Hat the Musical: Theatre Review

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers created the roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont in the 1935 film of Top Hat, that one sentence would make anyone think ‘why hasn’t this been made into a musical sooner?!’. But in late 2011 the musical premiered at the Milton Keynes Theatre before embarking on a UK Tour and after that the show transferred to the Aldwych Theatre in London’s West End in April 2012. The show opened with Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen in the lead roles (With Charlotte Gooch taking over Strallen in November 2012) and since opening it has an almost entire new cast.
I've never seen the movie before nor do I know anything about the plot so going along to see this musical was pretty exciting for me. Jerry Travers (Gavin Lee) is a Broadway star and comes over to London to open a new show. Whilst there he stays with Horace Hardwick (Clive Hayward) who is producing the show, whilst in their hotel he awakes Dale Tremont (Kristen Beth Williams) who is staying below them and Jerry instantly falls in love with her, however she mistakes him for Horace who is her friend Madge’s new husband so she gets very disturbed when she realises this because they’ve basically fallen in love. They all go (separately) to Italy where Dale confronts Madge about this and after lots of tap dancing and plenty of scene changes the whole thing gets resolved.

Classic 1930’s musical storyline, not very thrilling but the plot definitely has some very comedic moments.
The music wasn’t memorable at all, I know it’s got lots of well-known songs in it but I didn’t know any of them and couldn’t remember any of them afterwards. Even in the interval. The direction by Matthew White was ok, I can’t necessarily say anything bad about it but then I also can’t say anything overly good about it. Hildegard Bechtiler designs the set in this production, which was one thing I was quite impressed with. Although it was a little cheap looking and is very much like a touring productions set (I think it actually might be…) but I really liked the way they did all the transitions, you definitely got the feel that it was a posh hotel in the 1930’s. I think they pulled it off brilliantly.
Jon Morrells costume designs were beautiful, he nailed the 1930’s style, and the only thing I was disappointed at was that the famous feather dress didn’t have a lot of actual feathers on it but other than that they were great. Bill Deamer choreographed the production and he is obviously a fan of Tap Dancing. Don’t get me wrong I love a good tap routine but there was just too much. Every single song had a 10 minute tap routine, was way too much for me and I got bored of it half way through the first act. Andrew Wright is a good example of a choreographer that balances out his routines but this was way to Tap heavy and I honestly don’t think I ever want to see another one again! Although it was too much, every routine was performed with such grace and class by the cast.
Gavin Lee stars as Jerry Travers in this production and he’s good, his charisma in the role is divine. His voice was a little nasally and that gets annoying after having to watch it for 2 and a half hours but he is a very talented man and seems great in the role. His relationship with Kristen Beth Williams was splendid to watch. Kristen also stars as Dale Tremont; she has amazing control over the role and is a delightful dancer, a beautiful portrayal of the role. It’s a shame she didn’t have many songs because her voice was also really nice to listen to. She adopted the style of the piece and the character perfectly and I hope she stays in the west end for a while because I’ve never seen a performance like it.
Clive Hayward as Horace Hardwick was entertaining; he played the confusion of the character really well and had excellent comic timing on stage. Vivien Parry plays Madge Hardwick in the production, she’s hilarious! I wish the character was on for more of the show because she was a delight to watch, again, such great comic timing and bounced off the other characters really well. Vivien had a great energy on that stage and for me this was the stand out performance.
Alex Gaumond plays Alberto Beddini, one of the best things about the performance! Hilarious in the role and even though he has an Italian accent the whole way through it, this doesn’t stop his remarkable vocals come out in his solo song. Fits perfectly in the role!
Stephen Boswell usually plays Bates in the show but he was away so in his place we had Fenton Gary, you would have never noticed he was an understudy. We’re very lucky to have a West End that is filled with incredibly talented understudies, sometimes even better than the people who play them! I haven’t seen this show before so cannot compare his performance with Stephen but he plays it marvellously. His performance was very subtle but very funny at the same time.
The ensemble was great in this show, the cheesy smiles held throughout the whole show really added to the style of the piece! Some astonishing dancing from all ensemble members, I had a few people who stood out for me but I cannot for the life of me find them in my programme!
I personally didn’t enjoy this show, it wasn’t for me and there was far too much tap dancing. I just didn’t see a point to most of the things that were going on. But the 900 people around me who were all 60+ seemed to be having a whale of a time! So just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean other people won’t. However I can’t say that the show wasn’t good, the production value was of a good quality and I think it certainly is a hit with a particular audience; I’m just not a part of that!

Rating: **

Top Hat is currently playing at the Aldwych Theatre  

Cast Includes: Gavin Lee,  Kristen Beth Williams, Alex Gaumond,  Clive Hayward, Stephen Boswell, Vivien Parry, Michelle Andrews, Caroline Bateson, Jeremy Batt, Charlie Bull, Alan Burkitt, Matthew Cheney, Louise Davidson, Russell-Leighton Dixon, Matt Gillett, Jonny Godbold, Ian Goss, Fenton Gray, Alyn Hawke, Lauren Jade, Paul Kemble, Jenny Legg, Martin McCarthy, Grace McKee, Debbie Paul, Holly Rostron, Callum Train, Lois Urwin, Graham Vick, Alexandra Waite-Roberts and Aron Wild.

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