Theatre Reviews: 25 May
There are no surprises, which makes this vintage musical so perfect
'There may be trouble ahead, but while there's music and moonlight and love and romance, let's face the music and dance,' goes one of the songs in the fi rst theatre version of Top Hat, Irving Berlin's musical, best known and loved for the immortal 1935 RKO 'motion picture' with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
When the going gets tough, theatre-goers want escapism. And this number, which Fred and Ginger fans will probably have spotted comes from the movie Follow The Fleet, is one of several of Berlin's best – which director and adapter Matthew White has added to Top Hat – and it's very much in the escapist spirit of the piece.
There's no doubt too that when times are hard, theatre-goers prefer what they know to risking something new. The chances are that if you're already whistling 'Isn't this a lovely day to be caught in the rain?', or 'I'm putting all my eggs in one basket', as you go into the theatre, you'll be singing and dancing on your way out.
The plot, for anyone who has forgotten, hinges on the fact that dropdead- gorgeous model Dale Tremont, mistakes the goofy guy who is chasing her, for the new husband of her old friend, Madge (Vivien Parry). Absurd, but absurdly entertaining in White's tip-top production. Moreover, he's managed to beef up the skinny characters by giving them more to sing about. Comic sparks fly between Madge and her henpecked and harassed husband Horace (Martin Ball) in the love-hate number Outside Of That I Love You; and Ricardo Afonso's hilariously explosive Italian dress designer Beddini, mangles his metaphors magnificently: 'It's like looking for a noodle in a haystack,' he splutters.
Summer Strallen's Dale turns up the erotic temperature with the raunchy Wild About You, when she wraps her legs around Tom Chambers's Jerry, who isn't the greatest singer ever but has the right goofy charm. Strallen's Dale even gets to borrow Ginger's famous quip that she does everything Jerry does 'but backwards and in high heels'.
Chambers and Strallen are never going to look as effortless and spontaneous as Fred and Ginger did, but they make a 'taptastically' glamorous match nevertheless and there's real chemistry between them. When they're out together dancing cheek to cheek, maybe it isn't quite heaven, but they both look pretty blissed out and it's impossible to resist the romance.
Occasionally in the ensemble numbers, Top Hat, White Tie And Tails and The Piccolino, a glorious piece set on the Italian Riviera, the small Aldwych stage looks a bit squished, but an outstanding company never puts a foot wrong. And costume-designer Jon Morrell puts on the Ritz and then some. A lovely night to be caught in the rain.
At the Aldwych Theatre, London WC2. Booking until 26 January 2013: 0844-847 1712, www.tophatonstage.com
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