There’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia to make for a good night at the theatre, and Top Hat is as good as that gets at the moment. I haven’t yet seen the musical adaptation of Singin In The Rain (despite citing the movie as my all time favourite), but I couldn’t resist revisiting the glam of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers through this adaptation of the 1935 screwball musical that became one of they greatest cinematic treasures of all time.
The first thing to strike me in the show was the dancing – and rightly so. We are treated to the choreography of Bill Deamer in all its glory from the opening number ‘Puttin On The Ritz’. The dancers are highly technical and polished in the various tap routines, and lend themselves perfectly to the stylistically various vignettes. As leading men go, Tom Chambers has the charm, the looks, and – to quote Cole Porter – “the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire” – but in keeping with the great dance master, his vocals leave a lot to be desired. Summer Strallen, on the other hand, furnishes the piece with a beautiful vocal that matches her vintage brand of beauty. It’s worth it to see her alone.
There was a marked difference in tone between the first and second acts – with the first completely living up to the classy spectacle of the original movie, and the second becoming something a bit closer to farce. The sets, costume, dancing and music remained absolutely gorgeous, but the plot becomes suddenly more comedic and outrageous in the second act as mistaken identities, cross dressing and averting disaster become more prominent themes than the wistful romance of the beginning. It’s not a bad thing, but just a very striking polarisation.
If you’re a fan of the original film, or of the Fred and Ginger brand on the whole, you won’t be disappointed by this adaptation. Or, if you’re just looking for a night at the theatre that relives the elegance, music and comedy of the classic Hollywood era, then look no further than here.