18 Dec

TOP HAT by Irving Berlin
With book by Matthew White and Howard Jaques.
Every year we have a big Christmas treat. The famous Gatehouse musical comedy. Top Hat is inspired by the film starring Astaire and Rogers and it has the usual idiotic, unbelievable and improbable plot.
Jerry Travers is a famous American song and dance man. He does his opening night in London to great acclaim and then rushes to Venice after a girl he fancies. So what happens to his next performance?. Does the understudy go on? Won’t the audience throw a fit? We do not worry over it, because we are having such a good time watching the dancing, listening to the beautifully rendered, mostly familiar songs and enjoying the wonderful Gatehouse band led by musical director Charlie Ingles
John Plews the director has of course, had years of experience in musical theatre and knows exactly how to work it. For this production, the audience is split in two and one can have fun before the show begins, waving to fiends on the opposite side.
The very lovely Joanne Clifton – one of the professional dancers from Strictly Come Dancing plays Dale Tremont, Her Italian couturier and crazy admirer Alberto Beddini is played by Matthew James. Horace Hardwick (Darren Benedict) the harassed producer, has an incredibly ridiculous man servant played by Samuel Haughton who only manages to put extra difficulties in the way of true love. Joshua Lay dances up a storm as Jerry. The piece is well cast and all are quite wonderful – and what a pleasure to see the incredibly talented Ellen Verenieks as Madge the wife of Horace. She carries most of the comedy in Act two and she delivers her comedy lines like a young Eve Arden. The Ensemble work together brilliantly and each has a role to play in addition to the splendid dance routines. Chris Whittaker has devised the choreography well adapted to the talents of the principals and the ensemble.
Emily Bestow has designed an adaptable set with a platform at one end with treads leading up to it allowing for interesting stage pictures. The period costumes are stunning. The girls look ravishing whether in their colourful evening dresses or with top hat, white tie and tails.
Here is an evening full of joy warmth and friendship. The audience are like guests at a wonderful party and that is what I think musical theatre should be all about.

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