Review of Top Hat at The Churchill Theatre Bromley
Top Hat is approaching the closing weeks its impressive 47-week UK tour, but does the show live up to the styles and standards that the West End received back in the 2011 premiere?
Based on the hit film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Top Hat delivers fantastic hits (which have become solo songbook standards) by legendary composer Irving Berlin. ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’, ‘Let’s Face The Music and Dance’ and ‘Cheek to Cheek’ are three of the many great songs you will hear from this production, delivered with class and elegance as expected.
Top Hat is the story of Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), a Broadway star who falls for society girl, Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch) and follows her so far as to Europe to win her heart. Love, farce and energetic, hard-hitting tap numbers ensue.
The show opens with an energetic tap number that instantly shows the audience why Bill Deamer won the Olivier Award for best choreography. It’s fun, it’s dynamic and it keeps you engaged. The choreography is a strong part and one of the main pull-ins for the show, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The book, however, is not as strong nor consistent. Although there are some well written scenes, the majority of them are clunky and this is highlighted more in the second act regarding a Noel-Coward-styled farce. Top Hat received criticism for this in it’s West End premiere and has decided to keep it nonetheless. The same goes for the length of the show, specifically the second act, which could be shortened by 15 minutes or so.
Alan Burkitt portrays a rightfully talented and charming Jerry Travers and is able to grab the audience with his classic, old-fashioned leading man style. Charlotte Gooch provides the same appeal as Dale Tremont, but when individually showcased, gives us an extra few layers of her talents and individual stardom, making her the highlight of the show.
The set, as expected provides high-class and glamour and the scene changes are done with such speed an ease that a special mention should go to the stage hands and designer, Hildegard Bechtler, for transforming the show’s sets and sometimes within seconds.
The orchestrations and the direction is elegant and soothing but so consistent in its way that it can fade into the background during scenes and become bland at points and sometimes unnecessary. However, the musical highlights still shine and bring the Irving classics to life. With the show only coming to life a matter of years ago, it’s a surprise that this defining story never made it to the stage sooner. This show stands out as something that could have been born decades ago, and for all the right reasons. The creators stay true to the original vision and for fans of the film, they will leave more than satisfied.
For what seems to be a truly successful tour and run, Top Hat will be missed when the production finishes in July in Eastbourne. Try and see it for yourself as there honestly isn’t another show like it at the moment that does what it does with such class, fun and old-fashioned glamour.
Review by Tomm Ingram
Top Hat on Tour
Wednesday 17th June 2015