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Top Hat - New Victoria Theatre Woking

Top Hat

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

BASED on RKO’s 1935 motion picture of the same name, the musical Top Hat has been adapted for stage by director Matthew White and Howard Jacques and stars Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen in the roles created by the legendary Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Top Hat is a delightfully improbable tale in which Jerry Travers (Chambers), the famous American tap dancer, arrives in London to appear in his first West End show and meets the irresistible Dale Tremont (Strallen), the girl of his dreams.

In an attempt to win her heart, he follows her to Italy but reckons without the attentions of a certain Alberto Beddini (Ricardo Afonso)!

Top Hat is, in fact, a love story complicated by a bad case of mistaken identity, a not so small matter that leads to some deliciously droll moments. But Top Hat is also an old fashioned musical and includes Irving Berlin classics such as Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, Cheek to Cheek and Let’s Face the Music and Dance.

Fans of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing will know that Chambers can dance – he did after all win the competition in 2008 – so it should come as no surprise to learn that his routines are impeccable. But what many of you may not know is that he can also sing. Moreover, he imbues Jerry with an irresistible charm that has you rooting for him every step of the way.

Strallen, with her winsome smile and natural elegance, is ideally suited to the role of Dale. Besides, when it comes to song and dance, she can hold a candle to the very best . And because she brings a touching vulnerability to her character, Dale is at once immensely likeable.

There’s good support from Martin Ball and Vivien Parry as husband and wife Horace and Madge Hardwick, and from the aforementioned Ricardo Afonso as Italian super stud Beddini – his rendition of Latins Know How is pure comic genius.

Yet it’s with Beddini that I have one small gripe – why is it that Italian males are so often depicted as strutting peacocks with exaggerated mannerisms and grossly affected speech? I count many Italians among my friends and not one of them comes across in this way, so I can’t help but feel affronted on their behalf. I guess satire is the name of the game…

Special mention must also go to the wonderful Stephen Boswell who, as Horace’s valet Bates, is an unexpected scene stealer. A master of disguise he’s not; a master of the poker face he most certainly is.

Jon Morrell’s costumes are exquisite and Hildegard Bechtler’s set, as well as being good to look at, makes good use of the stage. In fact, Top Hat is altogether a very fine production. And with its unmistakable feel-good factor, West End audiences are in for a real treat.

NB: Top Hat transfers to the West End’s Aldwych Theatre, where it opens on May 9, 2012 (previews from April 19). Find out more