Arts, OldVenue

Review: Top Hat Musical at Norwich Theatre Royal

Direct from its great success in London, the all-singing, all-dancing, spectacular production of Top Hat, winning three Olivier awards, returns to Norwich for the beginning of this April. This production, based on Irving Berlin and RKO’s Hollywood motion picture, is adapted for the stage fantastically by Mathew White and Howard Jacques, bringing with it all the glamour and magic of the dazzling 1930s.

The orchestra really brought this enjoyable dance musical to life, accompanied by 11 of the show’s own live musicians who tour with the company. Before the performance even began, the orchestra had the audience’s feet tapping to well know rhythms and tunes. The performance was full of Irving Berlin’s greatest hits including ‘Cheek to Cheek’, ‘Top Hat’, ‘White Tie & Tails’, ‘Let’s Face the Music & Dance’, and the opening number of ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, which started the show off with all the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age with an impressive group tap dance.

The tap-dancing musical tells the story of Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt) an American tap dancer who has come to London to appear in Horace Hardwick’s (Clive Hayward) West End show. While there, he meets society girl Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch) who models the clothes of Italian designer Alberto Beddini (Sebastien Torkia). Amongst the romance, mistaken identities are made and Jerry has to follow Miss Tremont to Venice to win her heart.

The audience was fully transported to 1935 by the wonderful music and also the beautiful costumes. Costume Designer, Jon Morrell, really pulled out all the stops having created some truly enchanting costumes, especially the elegant ones worn by the character of Dale Tremont. The costumes were an integral part in creating this stunning era for the show, with every character’s costume design and style being thought-out in careful detail.

Another important feature that really excelled in this production was the set design by Hildegard Bechtler, transforming a scene from a grand hotel room to a convincing carriage or plane journey the next minute. Adding to this authenticity was the lighting design by Peter Mumford and sound design by Gareth Owen which created such convincing scenes and atmospheres.

The skill and ability at dancing from all the cast was a pure joy to watch. The large group numbers, utilising a cast of 29 people, were very impressive, tapping and singing in perfect harmony. The duets between the two protagonist lovers were particularly mesmerising, with both Burkitt and Gooch displaying beautiful dancing talent and capturing the heart of every audience member, their chemistry on stage a further tribute to their repertoire of talents: singing, dancing and acting.

A wonderful aspect of the musical Top Hat is that it’s a comedy. There were some incredibly hilarious scenes, one that especially had the audience in hysterics was the bedroom seen of Alberto Beddini (Sebastien Torkia) on his honeymoon night, singing ‘Latins Know How’. Another character who also brought plenty of humour to the show was the servant, Bates (John Conroy) ranging from classic English dry humour to classic slapstick. Two characters that cannot be forgotten is the married couple Horace and Madge Hardwick (Clive Hayward and Rebecca Thornhill) who brought some fantastic acting to the stage, their relationship dynamic was extremely entertaining, with plenty of jokes about the tribulations of being married. Rebecca Thornhill particularly shone throughout the show bringing some amazing musical talent and experience to the show, it was a shame she wasn’t in the first half too.

This was an utterly entertaining and enjoyable musical to watch. The talents of all the cast were very strong, added to the fantastic music, choreography, lighting, sound, set and all brought together by the clever direction of Matthew White. The audience loved this show from those who have known and loved the original to younger members who had never seen Top Hat at all, indeed the audience’s standing ovation showed their delight at such a performance. Top Hat promises an evening of romance, magic and glamour and is definitely not a show to be missed!


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