Listening to the orchestra tune their instruments is always one of my favourite moments before watching a musical, partly because I know the show is about to start and partly because I am reminded of the talented musicians hiding away in the orchestra pit preparing to play amazing music.
As soon as the first few notes of ‘Puttin On The Ritz’ were played it was very clear the audience were very happy to hear this particular song. Gavin Lee who played the role of Jerry Travers, a role made famous by the legendary Fred Astaire in the 1935 film version of Top Hat, breezed onto the stage, oozing style and finesse. Lee charmed the audience with his smooth singing voice during his mesmerising tap routine. This was a sublime opening and most certainly set the tone for the rest of the show.
Top Hat is essentially a love story that follows Jerry Travers, a Broadway sensation who has come to perform in London. Whilst staying at a hotel, Travers meets Dale Tremont, played by Kristen Beth Williams, he immediately falls in love with her and begins to woo her, with some difficulty along the way, opening the door for some classic comedy and almost farcical moments between the characters. In the story there is also another suitor to the beautiful Tremont, Italian fashion designer, Alberto Beddini, played by Alex Gaumond. Gaumond’s characterisation of Beddini is larger than life and adds an eccentricity to the show which works perfectly against the smooth performances from Lee and Williams. I must admit that Gaumond’s performance at times did steal the show, for all the right reasons.
Top Hat is an absolute testament to the genius of Irving Berlin especially with numbers such as ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’ which was the finale for Act 1 and of course the unmistakeable ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’. The music and clever lyrics are just one of the main appeals of this show as I was also blown away by the breathtaking dance routines. Choreographer, Bill Deamer, had clearly been inspired by the choreography from the 1935 film version of Top Hat, which was choreographed by Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan. Deamer has created a collection of routines which I should imagine any dancer would be happy to perform and any spectator happy to watch. The ensemble of Top Hat are highly talented performers and deliver high energy routines one after the other without even a hint of effort.
Top Hat really is a show that has it all and in abundance, beautiful music and songs, impressive and elegant dance routines and wonderful acting but making this show even more beautiful is the outstanding set and costumes. Set design by Hildegard Bechtler and costume design by Jon Morrell bring a strong sense of 1930’s Hollywood glamour to the West End.
Watching Top Hat was an utter treat for me and I heartily recommend this show to anyone wanting to see quality theatre by a cast of top quality performers.
Review by Haydn James @HaydnJames82
Friday 5th July 2013