It’s a long time since I last saw the legendary movie with Astaire and Rodgers, so I can’t really compare this show with those performances, but I can tell you that this version of Top Hat is a great show in its own right.
Basically this is a farce with tap dancing. There is a simple plot based on mistaken identity. Glamorous Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch ) is attracted to Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), a famous stage star. However, she thinks he is a cad, as she wrongly believes he is married, and so becomes engaged to her dressmaker, Alberto Beddini (Sebastien Torka). Confusion reigns, but it all comes out right in the end of course. All this is just an excuse for some great dancing. Alan Burkitt has all the equipment for a terrific Jerry — very fast and twinkling feet, and he is also a very good actor, putting over every nuance of the many moods he is thrown into by his frustrated love quest. Charlotte Gooch looks every inch the 1930s star, and is able to be touching between the bursts of comedy. She can dance too.
The piece is set in 1935. Hildegard Bechtler’s art deco set designs perf-ectly create the mood of privileged luxury in which the story unfolds. The Stuffy Thackeray Club in London is just right, and the hotel in Venice, in which romantic couples dance in swooping runs, (no tap here), creates just the ideal atmosphere. Jon Morrel’s costumes for the girls are marvellous. Dance numbers flow from one into another amid the seamless set-changes. But it’s Sebastian Torka who steals the show in a hilarious send-up of a self-obsessed couturier — not camp, just an over-the-top Italian stud.
Milton Keynes Theatre
Box office: 0844 871 7652
New Theatre, Oxford, Jan 28-Feb 7
0844 871 3020, atg.tickets.com