Top Hat

Besides all the other things I love doing, going out to theatre is certainly up there in the top ten! And I have a bit of a thing for musicals as well. My recent outing was to see Top Hat, the first ever stage production of the 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film of the same name. I confess to having never seen the film, in fact I cannot recall having seen many ‘Fred & Ginger’ films. However this did not stop me wanting to see such a show – I love the music of Irving Berlin and the main star Tom Chambers wowed many a fan with his dancing prowess on Strictly back in 2008 (yes it was that long ago!)

Summer Strallen as Dale Tremont,Tom Chambers as Jerry Travers.

An American dancer, Jerry Travers comes to London to star in a show produced by the bumbling Horace Hardwick . While practicing a tap dance routine in his hotel bedroom, he awakens Dale Tremont  on the floor below. She storms upstairs to complain, whereupon Jerry falls hopelessly in love with her and proceeds to pursue her all over London.

Dale mistakes Jerry for Horace, who is married to her friend Madge. Following the success of Jerry’s opening night in London, Jerry follows Dale to, where she is visiting Madge and modelling/promoting the gowns created by Alberto Beddini, a dandified Italian fashion designer with a penchant for malapropisms.

Jerry proposes to Dale, who is disgusted that her friend’s husband could behave in such a manner and agrees instead to marry Alberto. Fortunately, Bates , Horace’s meddling English valet, disguises himself as a priest and conducts the ceremony; apparently, Horace had sent Bates to keep tabs on Dale.

On a trip in a gondola, Jerry manages to convince Dale and they return to the hotel where the previous confusion is rapidly cleared up. The reconciled couple dance off into the Venetian sunset, to the tune of “The Piccolino”.

The stage adaptation stuck pretty much to this and as I did not know the storyline before  I went in, it was easy to follow and enjoy the humour, the romance and the music and of course the tap dancing. There is something so enthralling and enchanting about tap dancing and seeing it all just look so smooth, sophisticated and classic.

There is so much about it to like, Horace and his butler Bates made me chuckle but then the dancing made me smile and the dresses made me want to cry, so beautifully elegant. A very good adaptation and one I am glad I have seen. The sets were amazing, so many changes and you could not see the join, from hotel lobby, to bedroom suite, to outside and then back in again.

The evening was slightly spoilt as I sat down. The lady sat behind was talking to her neighbour saying she would have a good view if the lady in front (me) did not keep her head in that position, I was talking to my mum at the time. Said lady repeated this, and so I politely turned round and informed her that I would do my best to please her. One suitably embarrassed lady who also got a very large elbow dug in her side from her husband, saying she was rude and too loud!

Sadly the lady next to my mum fell ill during the performance, I think she may have had a heart attack, she seemed to lose consciousness and then was sick. Rather in a fast slow motion if there is such a thing, I elbowed my dad out the way and ran up the aisle to get some assistance. One of the granddaughters of the poorly lady followed me probably thinking no one was helping. I have to say how professional the staff were and I give them ten out of ten with dealing with it. We were moved to other seats, as could not sit where we were, because it needed to be cleaned up and it did smell not very nice.  I continued to enjoy the show right up to the end, but it did frighten me somewhat.

The Mayflower is a very different theatre to the one in Chichester, and it certainly creates a different atmosphere and having only within the last 4 weeks seen Singin’ In The Rain at Chichester, you could tell the difference. However, the sound, lighting and the acoustics were fantastic at Top Hat and despite playing musical chairs you could hear everything clearly. Delightedly I got to see Summer Strallen, who is the sister of Scarlett Strallen who played Kathy Selden in Singin’ In The Rain, very much alike and definitely a family talent! For those who have access to London theatres, Singin’ In The Rain is transferring to the West End from Feb 2012 with the original cast from Chichester, and I highly recommend it.

Nothing theatre wise planned for next month but plenty to look forward to in 2012. There is a couple of films coming up at the cinema soon, and I have yet to share my thoughts on the recent film I saw, Jane Eyre.


Singin’ in the Rain

My most favourite film – ever is Singin’ in the Rain. 1952, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. It tells the story how the talkies came to Hollywood and pokes fun at the industry.

Obviously I never saw the film first time it was released but something in my childhood must have ingrained this film and the music into my head. I was taken at a very early age to see Tommy Steele and Roy Castle at the London Palladium in 1983, I can remember being sat quite high up and was apparently more fascinated with the orchestra and the tube ride there than I was the show. However, something must have stuck as I was bought the video and promptly wore that out. Thank goodness for DVDs.

12 years later in 1995 I got the chance to see it again, this time directed by Tommy Steele and starring Paul Nicholas in the lead role of Don Lockwood.

Some years later I cannot remember the date and I am back at my local theatre The Mayflower, Southampton for another production of my favourite show. As a fan I went to the matinée performance only for the water to cause a short circuit and so I had to go again three days later on Saturday.

The cinema did something marvellous in 2002, celebrating 50 years of the film, got a reprint of the film and I got to see it on the big screen as it was meant to be seen.

And still the film/musical is my favourite and whenever it is on the television I will watch it annoying those with me, as I am always preempting what is going to be said and I was conscious of that when I got the chance to go and see it again at my other local theatre Chichester Festival Theatre. I am lucky enough to live 20 minutes from two of the best theatres in the country.

Singin’ in the Rain 2011 style was fantastic. Yes they played a bit fast and loose with the film. A couple of extra songs, one for Don and Kathy when she first meets him and a song for Lina Lamont – why? Cosomo Brown does not run up the wall as he does in the film, which I show below for your pleasure if you wish to partake in making them laugh!

Also as Lina Lamont is exposed at the end of the film, they did not sing Singin’ in The Rain which I was a bit disappointed at, but that was soon forgotten as a whole cast ensemble did the title track again as the rain came down once more! (splashing the audience, some of who were not amused. Do not sit in the front row then!)  They had real fun you could see that and has the three main leads took their bow, the others absolutely soaked them. What a delight!

This was an excellent production, and is worthy of the reviews I have read and the standing ovation it got as well.  It is allegedly going into the West End, and it deserves it if it does. The three main leads, I would say are not that well known, the names might ring a few bells and I had to do a bit of research. Adam Cooper who plays Don Lockwood, was the older Billy in Billy Elliott, the scene at the end with Swan Lake – that was him! Scarlett Strallen who plays Kathy Selden (sister of Summer who I am seeing in Top Hat in a few weeks time) was Mary Poppins, in Mary Poppins on the stage. A show I never got to see and I wish I had because that is my second favourite film. Sandra Dickinson (used to be married to Peter Davison) and Michael Brandon (Demspey and Makepeace) I did recognise.

A lovely afternoon out on a Sunday, a rare occurrence for a theatre, but it was delightful sitting on the grass with a cup of tea in the sunshine, waiting to go in and know that you were going to enjoy the show no matter what! They should prescribe it on the NHS.