Top Hat - November 2014



The Bristol Hippodrome has certainly raised the bar when it comes to dance productions and Top Hat which opened this week is definitely on par with the best.

It is an all-singing and all-dancing great and gets a big bravo from us.

While the Strictly Ballroom contestants were hoofing around at Blackpool this equally entertaining dance company were getting ready to take to the floor at Bristol.

Set in the art deco decadence of the 1930s Top Hat it is a tap-dancing farce of Brian Rix proportions and although thoroughly enjoyable maybe a little dated in parts.

The opening scene has the tap dancers Puttin’ On The Ritz in a plush hotel foyer while carrying walking canes and wearing pin-striped trousers, black and white spats plus the obligatory top hats.

The dancing girls wore dapper 1930s fashions with bobbed hair and kiss curls and the boys Barnet’s were seemingly topped with Brylcreem.

The stage is framed by a cream border with geometric lines and is visually stunning especially in the split level sequences.

The blue skies moment on the aeroplane was really clever ‘thinking outside the box’ as was the horse and carriage and gondola ride.

The Spoonerism’s of the Italian designer who feared ‘putting all his monkey’s in one barrel’ and ‘looking for a noodle in a haystack’ was an hilarious character trait.

But it was his wedding night strip which was the greatest tease especially when he revealed his vest and pants combination which gave a whole new meaning to a word ‘onesie’ and now I know why men should always take their socks (and garters) off first.

Having said this some of the corny non-PC jokes are straight out of a Carry On film however this didn’t stop us laughing and at the end it was the opening night audience who took to their feet to give the cast a well-deserved standing ovation.

We all loved the comic man servant who was a master and mistress-of-disguise.

Brilliant choreography seems to be the byword for the Bristol Hippodrome with the dance sequences from William Tell performed by the Welsh National Opera this month, the dazzling Singin’ In The Rain musical and showstoppers Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace returning next March with their Dance 'Til Dawn theatre fans are spoilt for choice.

Top Hat which opened on Tuesday night and plays until Saturday, November 29, is in the same genre as Singin’ In The Rain – a musical comedy with romance and dance at its heart.

Both depict the golden age of Hollywood glamour with equal aplomb.

Top Hat is the  winner of three Olivier awards, for ‘best new musical’, ‘best choreography’ and ‘best costume design’ and won the Evening Standard award for ‘best night out’.

This is the welcome return of the stage production which premiered in the Aldwych Theatre back in May 2012.

Stepping into the shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, are super talented West End stars Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch.

They are joined by Clive Hayward who returns as Horace Hardwick, the role he played in the West End, Rebecca Thornhill as Madge Hardwick, Sebastien Torkia as Alberto Beddini and John Conroy as Horace’s valet Bates.

Top Hat is directed by Matthew White, choreographed by Bill Deamer, Hildegard Bechtler designed the sets and Jon Morrell the costumes.

Alan plays a famous US tap dancer who arrives in London for his first West End show.

He meets the irresistible girl of his dreams played by Charlotte and follows her across Europe in an attempt to win her heart. 

With music and lyrics by Irving Berlin and based on the RKO motion picture, Top Hat was the most successful picture of the nine movies Astaire and Rogers made together.

It premiered at the Radio City Music Hall in 1935 where it broke all box office records and within weeks all five songs from the film were top of the US hit parade.

Performed by a cast of 29 and accompanied by 11 live musicians, this multi award-winning musical comedy includes Cheek to Cheek, Isn’t It A Lovely Day To Be Caught In The Rain and Top Hat, White Tie And Tails. 

In addition, from Berlin’s 1,200 strong back catalogue, a further 10 numbers have been interpolated including well-loved favourites Let’s Face The Music And Dance and Puttin’ On The Ritz.

Carol Deacon