THERE’S a reason why we all remember the classic Hollywood musicals with such affection and that’s because they have yet to be surpassed.
Take Top Hat, which has been spectacularly revived for the stage. Its world premiere and two week run at Milton Keynes Theatre was greeted with delight by fans.
It was impossible not to be swept away by the glitz and glamour of it all.
And audiences, nostalgic for the grace and elegance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, were not disappointed other than with a desire to see even more dancing.
Taking their place, and oozing sophistication and style, were blonde bombshell Summer Strallen and TV’s Tom Chambers. If you thought he was hot stuff in Strictly Come Dancing then you should see him tap dance!
There’s never much of a story in the old school musicals. The dialogue was there to link the songs and big show pieces and usually took the same format. Boy meets girl, girl resists, boy wins in the end. Kiss, kiss. Finale.
Tom plays big time Broadway star Jerry Travers who comes to England to appear in a show. En route he bumps into the feisty and independent Dale Tremont who, through a case of mistaken identity (isn’t that always the way?) believes her best friend’s husband is wooing her.
As the will-they/ won’t-they story progresses we are treated to a master-class in dazzling footwork. Travers’ dancing “duet” with a hat-stand was pure Astaire while Strallen paid homage to Rogers by donning her iconic white feather ball gown (which she incidentally loathed because it moulted but which Astaire insisted she wore – the result was an explosion of feathers which irritated the great man).
There are some great comic character roles, particularly from Richardo Afonso as Tremont’s Latin fashion designer boss Alberto Beddini, and Stephen Boswell as manservant Bates.
The costumes and set are sumptuous and evoked the period perfectly and it was packed with some great show-tunes – Top Hat, Isn’t It a Lovely Day, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Wild About You, cheek to Cheek and Let’s Face The Music and Dance.
If there could be any criticism it would be a desire to see more big dance numbers and a bit of editing of the script. I wouldn’t say we felt short-changed but it was so heavenly to watch that I didn’t want it to end.
Also, despite MKT having one of the largest modern stages in the country, it looked overstuffed when the company performed a big set piece.
I think Fred would have been impressed.