Theatre Review: Top Hat

Top Hat Musical

Top Hat at The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is an almost perfect film to stage adaptation, says David Mullane.


Nominated for four Academy Awards and ranked 15th Best Musical by the American Film Institute, Top Hat, the 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers screwball musical comedy, was ripe for stage adaptation and the West End production now at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is fabulously executed, and a deserved winner of its three Oliviers.

The plot, such as it is, follows a celebrated American dancer who has come to London to star in a West End revue. Tap dancing in his hotel room late one night, he awakens a beauty sleeping in the room below him. Thus begins a romance complicated by a prolonged case of mistaken identity, amorous Italian fashion designers, a valet in disguise and a fanciful trip to Venice.

Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch are the two brave souls filling Fred and Ginger’s dancing shoes and they are both fine dancers; his tap is fast and furious while her high kicks and low bends are very high and very low, respectively. Unfortunately, their vocals are not as worthy of praise but, while Irving Berlin’s songs are wonderful and deserve to be delivered well, no one comes to see Top Hat for the singing.

The book is very witty, reminiscent of the film, especially in the first act, which hums along like any well-tuned comedy. The second act, however, droops into silly farce and could do with at least ten minutes shaved off its running time.

Art Deco-inspired costumes by Jon Morell and set design by Hildegard Bechtler are both fabulous, rich in period detail and imagination. These days, so many touring productions are strung together cheaply with much expense spared, but this production looks expensive and considered, complementing the exquisite dancing and music.It’s a rare treat to see good old-fashioned dancing on stage and this show has both stunning duets and big group numbers, featuring the thirty-strong company. Despite its minor flaws, Top Hat delivers where it counts – hats off to this spectacular show!


Top Hat runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until Jun 6, booking here. Follow David Mullane on Twitter @ScobieMullane


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