Tapping into Top entertainment

Sick of the grey days of February? Tired of working from nine to five? Well, here is the instant antidote to all things depressing – Top Hat.

Thursday, 12th February 2015, 8:34 am
Top Hat The Musical, starring Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch
Top Hat The Musical, starring Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch

Set in the 1930s, this screwball musical comedy delivers by the bucketful on every count – music, dancing, pithy one-liners, costumes, set and that all important element… boy-meets-girl and falls in love.

If you liked the original 1935 film with Fred Astaire and partner Ginger Rogers, you will like this stage version even better.

And while the toe-tapping duo are, of course, absent, the wonderful Irving Berlin music remains.

Alan Burkitt, who plays love-lorn Jerry Travers, could have been plucked straight out of the era and, unlike Astaire, is believable as a romantic interest, can act and sing. Like Astaire he can also ‘dance a little’.

His dance sequences are mesmerising and he also manages to do justice to memorable classics like Cheek to Cheek and Let’s Face the Music and Dance at the same time as dancing!

While Charlotte Gooch, who plays love interest Dale Tremont, matches Burkitt’s footwork step for step, the relationship between the two is never convincing. It is a small niggle in a production that sparkles from the first number – Puttin’ on the Ritz – to the finale.

There are 14 musical numbers and countless ensemble dance routines with the energy of a Busby Berkeley number, but without the fancy camerawork.

When cast members take a break from the breakneck pace, they drape themselves elegantly around the stage, which converts from hotel foyer to bedroom to lounge, aeroplane, hansom cab and Venice using clever layers and levels.

These are perfect moments to introduce comedy. John Conroy as Bates, the butler, delivers some perfectly timed lines of dry humour while Sebastien Torkia as fashion designer Alberto Beddini, hams it up as the doe-eyed Italian keen to steal Dale away from Travers.

Forget the silly plot and enjoy the ride, admire the elegant costumes, hum along to the songs (but not too loudly) and remember spring is just around the corner.

Top Hat - Opera House, Manchester - Until February 21

Joyce Bishop