Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Isn't it a lovely day... My review of Top Hat on stage

Picture from Song Book - which has lots of lovely facts about 'Cheek to Cheek'
I have been yearning to go and see Top Hat since I'd heard rumours that it was being adapted for the stage almost 80 years after the film of the same name first appeared on the silver screen.  My wishes came true when last week, my dear chums Hayley (of the Vintage Vessel), Katie (who doesn't have a blog but really should!) and myself skipped our way to the Aldwych Theatre near Covent Garden to see the stage version of one of my favourite films.
Hayley and Katie just before taking our place in the stalls
After we'd stopped squealing with excitement (which went on slightly longer than is really acceptable for three adults) and the curtains went up, we were at first treated to a an energetic rendition of 'Puttin' on the Ritz' by Tom Chambers (in the role of Jerry Travers) and company.
 'But wait', I hear you cry, Fred dances to 'Puttin' on the Ritz' in Blue Skies, not Top Hat.  And you would be right.  However, 'Puttin' on the Ritz', as well as a fair few other Irving Berlin penned tunes, do crop up from time to time in the show (many of them featured in other Fred and Ginger pictures).  Even with these few extra songs - and a quite unexpected striptease - the show is fairly faithful to the original screenplay.
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
Tom Chambers ('him off Strictly') was very brave to take on a Fred Astaire role in the West End, but he did an admirable job.  If you watch this, I think you can see why he was cast (although his American accent did leave a little to be desired...) 
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
In the role of Dale Tremont (originated in the 1935 film by Ginger Rogers) was Charlotte Gooch, who only came to the role in November.  Gooch is a stunning dancer and took to the role with aplomb - even maintaining an American accent throughout!
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
The supporting cast were brilliant, particularly Dale Tremont's Italian benefactor Alberto Beddini (played by Ricardo Afonso) who was as ridiculous as you would hope, but for some reason seemed to have a nail file to challenge unruly men, rather than a sword as he does in the film.
The film was banned in Italy by Mussolini
because Erik Rhodes' accent as Beddini offended him so much!
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
'Cheek to Cheek', the breath-taking romantic duet near the end of the film, is moved up the running order.  Because of this, it loses some of its impact by becoming an incidental dance rather than a dramatic finale (also, you can't help but compare the dancers to Mr Astaire and Ms Rogers).  The dance which replaces 'Cheek to Cheek' at the close of the show, is 'Let's Face the Music and Dance' (from Follow the Fleet), a set-piece which feels somewhat underwhelming after having already seen 'that dress' during such a grand number.
Ginger earned her nickname 'Feathers after her dress
started malting during the filming of 'Cheek to Cheek'
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
The costumes were absolutely phenomenal, with some of Ms Tremont's gowns toned down slightly (I think for the better) and the scenes at the Venice Lido featured some of the most covetable beach pyjamas I've ever seen!
During the Piccolino number, set at the Venice Lido
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
The sets, by Hildegard Bechtler, were magnificent throughout - I imagine trying to recreate the sweeping Art Deco 'Big White Set' was quite a challenge on a small London stage.
It's a shame you can't see the detail of these dresses,
they are absolutely stunning
Courtesy of Top Hat On Stage
I would love to go and see Top Hat again as it just has all of my favourite elements - a charming Irving Berlin score, beautiful 1930s costumes, terrific dancing - and an excuse to eat tiny pots of ice cream!

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