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Top Hat, Aldwych Theatre - Theatre Review

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by Claire Chambers (subscribe)
Applied Linguistics graduate and freelance writer. Visit my twitter: @heyclairemarie
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The West End stage seems to be deluged with musical adaptations of popular films recently. From Dirty Dancing to The Wizard of Oz and Legally Blonde, adapting a classic film to the stage is all the rage amongst theatrical types. It's easy to see the reasoning behind this; after all the musical adaptation of a film already has a set audience. Also for the audience, a trip to see your favourite film adapted into a musical has the benefit of knowing that you are already going to be familiar with what you see on stage.

The latest of these screen to stage extravaganzas, the West End adaptation of classic 1935 film Top Hat, opened in London's Aldwych Theatre on May 9. It stars Tom Chambers in Fred Astaire's role of Jerry Travers opposite Summer Strallen filling in for Ginger Rogers as Dale Tremont. Jerry is an American performer who is in London starring in a theatrical production, when he bumps into Dale, who is staying in the same hotel as him and promptly falls in love with her. However, Dale is furious when she mistakenly comes to believe that Jerry is the husband of one of her friends. Therefore, the scene is set for many mishaps and hilarity.

The plot is paper-thin and does not do much to capture the attention, especially for younger members of the audience. Some of the plot points do not stand up to examination, for example playboy Jerry's quick dismissal of his bachelor lifestyle as he falls in love with Dale upon meeting her. Also, Dale has never heard of Jerry despite him being seemingly well-known - surely she must have read the newspapers at some point.

Some of the gags are extremely predictable, even though the cast do their best to work with what they are given. However, it is the music and dancing which hold up the whole production and you cannot help but smile when you hear some of the well-known tunes, for example the delightfully romantic Cheek to Cheek.

Tom Chambers, in the lead role, is an accomplished tap dancer and can easily hold his own as the leading man in a West End production, no mean feat when you consider he was competing as an amateur dancer in Strictly Come Dancing only a few years ago. He exudes charisma and puts in a charming performance.

Summer Strallen holds her own opposite him as she elegantly floats around the stage in lovely outfits with grace and ease. She sings beautifully and her acting isn't bad too, with her character being both sharp and soft at the same time.



The leads are aided by an excellent supporting cast, who supply the neat comic turns. Vivien Parry and Martin Ball provide competent support as Dale's friend and her wayward husband, while Stephen Boswell amuses as their butler.

Top Hat is a pleasingly frothy spectacle of catchy tunes, lavish sets and fabulous dancing. An enchanting musical comedy, it is akin to drinking a glass of pink champagne: classy, luxurious but with no real substance. Despite this, it makes for an enjoyable trip to the theatre and you will be humming the songs for a long time afterwards. Audiences will be sure to enjoy this perfectly pleasant piece of escapism. Maybe one day we will come across an original idea in musical theatre, but at the moment it seems we will have to rely on old favourites such as Top Hat.

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Why? For an enjoyable, frothy evening's entertainment
When: 9th of May 2012- 27th April 2013
Where: Aldwych Theatre
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