Review: Top Hat

Written by: Alyson Claffey

Aldwych Theatre, London

Rife with wonderful camp cabaret, the stage adaptation of the original 1935 Astaire and Rogers film Top Hat, at the Aldwych Theatre London is a foot tapping bonanza.

The stage opens with an enchanting first number – the classic, Putting on the Ritz – and all the glamour you would expect from 1930s Broadway. Directed by Michael White, the script has been sympathetically adapted by White and Howard Jacques from film to stage, propelling the audience into a time capsule of tap, top hats and oiled hair.

Top Hat West End musical

Best known for BBC’S Holby City, Tom Chambers takes centre stage in the role of Jerry Travers, an American theatre legend come to England, with charm and a captivating smile, instantly winning over audiences. The 2008 Strictly Come Dancing champion wasted no shred of talent in utilising his skills, making light work of the dancing. Although in tap terms he is a long way away from a Fred Astaire, Chambers brings some old fashioned jazz to the role, with the same energy and naive hilarity of Astaire himself.

The storyline is very much a Shakespearean comedy of errors, a love story between Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont (Summer Strallen), after a chance encounter in a hotel, leading to a misunderstanding and a hilarious amount of dramatic irony. With all the quick witted farce of a Carry On film, the script, adapted for the stage by Matthew White and Howard Jacques, is technically very enjoyable, is laced with superficial jokes and is in places a bit thin.

Despite this however, the plot does have a pleasing modernity to it in the form of leading lady, Summer Strallen. Strallen’s depiction of Dale Tremont as a quick witted, acid tongued, single model, making her own dollar is a refreshing contemporary take on a period often synonymous with gender stereotypes. This theme is contrasted by the misogyny of the supporting cast, such as Horace Hardwick played by Martin Ball, who despite his outdated views of marriage, is dominated by his overbearing wife.

Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre. Photo: Brinkhoff and Mogenburg

Top Hat at the Aldwych Theatre. Photo: Brinkhoff and Mogenburg

The sets are pleasingly authentic, paying tribute to the originals’ from 1935 and the costumes, created by Vivien Parry, are offset wonderfully against the vintage backdrops. Replicated with all the delicacy and decadence of the period, the costumes are glamorous and stunningly genuine, especially those of Dale Tremont, which Strallen carries off with all the poise and attractiveness of Ginger Rogers.

Very seldom is there a chance to enjoy a show with the same flair and flourish as those original classics of 1930s Broadway, but Top Hat tries hard to deliver. The show is set to 16 wonderfully covered Irving Berlin classics, beautifully orchestrated and danced with an exceptionally energetic and technically brilliant supporting cast, in what has been a sell-out show up and down the country.

The show is brilliant escapist fun for those looking for a bit of 1930s Broadway glam, despite the occasional dodgy American accent; it is still an enjoyable evening of farce, tap and top hats.

Top Hat is booking until 28 September 2013. Find out more at

Author: Alyson Claffey

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