Theatre Review: Top Hat
Published: May 2012
Seventy seven years after the release of the original movie and following a seventeen week UK tour Top Hat opened in London’s West End last week. With the gloomy economy and even gloomier weather, this extremely light and catchy musical couldn’t have come at a better time. The two leads, Strictly Come Dancing Winner and Holby City Heartthrob Tom Chambers and multi-talented triple Olivier Award nominee Summer Strallen give Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers a run for their money.
Tom Chambers plays Jerry Travers, a famous American tap dancer arriving in London to appear in his first West End show. Travers meets the irresistible Dale Tremont (Summer Strallen), the girl of his dreams and follows her across to Europe to win her heart.
Nominated for four academy awards Top Hat is widely regarded as one of the greatest dance musicals of all time. The audience lapped up the fast paced dance routines, there’s tap of course but also some romantic ballroom and a little bit of Busby Berkeley performed by a cast of 31 and accompanied by a live band of 15. Particularly memorable was the slick choreography of Chambers tap routine with a handstand and the Top Hat White Tie and Tails number, a dozen tapping chaps in top hats, tails and canes that closed the first half.
Music and Lyrics are by Irving Berlin and include such classics as Cheek to Cheek, Let’s Face the Music and Dance and Isn’t It a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain (although anyone who has spent the last few weeks in the UK might beg to differ with the lyrics of the latter).
I was expecting great dance routines, what I wasn’t expecting was quite how funny the show would be. There were some particularly memorable lines and laugh out loud moments “Is there no beginning to your talents” is a put down worthy of Simon Cowell but written decades ago. Also famous amongst the wisecracks is the great Ginger Rogers line “I Just did everything you did, backwards, in heels”. Scene stealing Portuguese Ricardo Afonso as Italian Alberto Beddini deserves a mention as does the performance of Stephen Boswell as Travers’s butler Bates (even if I did occasionally mistake him for a character from a Carry On Movie).
Hildegard Bechtler’s magnificent art deco sets are in keeping with the era and the two hundred costumes add to the 1930’s feel. The show is hardly mentally taxing and Tom Chambers voice occasionally not up to scratch but he easily wins the audiences affection with his great charm and enthusiastic dancing. Top Hat will appeal to not just Strictly fans but anyone who has recently seen Crazy for You and Singing in the Rain. The hordes visiting London for the Jubilee celebrations and Olympics are also going to love it. Top Hat is a thoroughly enjoyable way of spending a couple of hours and is guaranteed to lift your spirits so I would grab a ticket fast.
For further information visit
Theatre Review: Top Hat
Petra joined Travel Channel for its launch back in 1994. She looks after our research and works on all original productions. Petra’s one of the most recognisable faces in the travel industry and when she’s not on the canapé circuit promoting the channel, she spends every free moment travelling. She’s visited over 70 countries and prefers back packing to 5 * luxury, unless of course it’s in the name of research!