‘… brimming with romance, dazzle and wit’
Irving Berlin’s musical is brought to us through the lens of RKO’s motion picture starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Based on this film and its book by Matthew White & Howard Jacques, it has lost none of its dazzle and wit. For those of us who find it hard to relate to monochrome and the film’s constant stream of gags, this live theatre version comes off better. It tells the story of a Broadway sensation, Jerry Travers who falls for society girl Dale Tremont. As he pursues her across Europe to London, he become the victim of mistaken identity. It is a show rich in romance and full of hilarious characters.
Whilst Astaire and Rogers can never be surpassed for style and quality, they are surely matched by Joshua Lay and Joanne Clifton in the roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont. Right from the opening number when Lay faultlessly catches his cane in mid-air, it is clear that the choreography (by Chris Whittaker) is going to be something special. Together and with the ensemble they regularly bring the house down, especially in the number ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’. Beautiful sound, exceptional choreography and wonderful dance skills from all.
Added to this Joanne Clifton has star quality. She’s a fine actress with an extremely expressive face, has a good quality voice and of course, she can dance. Whilst her Strictly fame does not do her talent full justice, it is wonderful to see her live. The curve of her back, the light quality to her movements and her luminous smile all add up to a fairy-tale loveliness, no doubt aided by costume and hair dressing.
The design for this show is exceptional, particularly Clifton’s white dress, with feather boa, which floats with wispy airiness, complimented with an elaborate hairstyle probably a wig or hair piece (designed by Jessica Plews).
The raft of characters in the show adds interest and much humour. Perhaps one or two of the ‘gags’ fall flat but overall they are brought to life and hit their mark over and over again. The hilarity factor rises to heights way beyond five stars, when Matthew James Willis as Alberto Beddini gives his rendition of ‘Latins Know How’. Rather less over the top, Darren Benedict as Horace Hardwick, is wonderful to watch in his role as Jerry Travers’ concerned producer and fall guy to his wife. Madge Hardwick is finely played with both frostiness and warmth by Ellen Verenieks.
Overall, huge congratulations to director John Plews, whose long career in theatre (much of it on cruise lines Princess, Cunard and P&O) has fully paid off in this production. His experience really shows.
Finally, a word about the band led by musical director Charlie Ingles with orchestrations and arrangements by Dan Glover. What a wonderful sound they make, complementing the many outstanding numbers in the show.
Get a ticket if you can, it’s deservedly selling very well!
Box Office: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/top-hat
13 December 2017 – 28 January 2018
Presented by Ovation
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate,
Music & Lyrics by Irving Berlin
Based on RKO’s Motion Picture
Book by Matthew White & Howard Jacques
Presented by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe
Reviewer Heather Jeffery is founder and editor of London Pub Theatres magazine www.londonpubtheatre.com (email for press releases: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Formerly playwright and Artistic Director of Changing Spaces Theatre. Her credits include productions at Drayton Arms Theatre (Kensington), Old Red Lion Theatre (Islington), VAULT festival (Waterloo), St Paul’s Church (Covent Garden), Cockpit Theatre (Marylebone) and Midlands Arts Centre (Birmingham)