“Top Hat” by Carlton Operatic Society
Nottingham Theatre Royal
The musical is based on the 1935 film of the same name, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. In “Top Hat” we follow Broadway superstar Jerry Travers as he arrives in London to appear in a stage show from producer Horace Hardwick. But this being a screwball comedy, things do not go according to plan and pretty soon a case of mistaken identity and romance sends things off course. Travers attempts to win the heart of society girl, Dale Tremond but she mistakes him for Hardwick – a married man – meaning that his advances horrify her as he attempts to gain her hand in marriage.
This has to be one of the most glamorous of dance musicals around, but for the actors involved one that involves a lot of hard work and practice, not least in the dance numbers. But that’s no problem for Carlton Operatic; they are no strangers to hard work, as you’ll already know if you’ve seen any of their past productions.
Taking on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers was never going to be an easy ask for our leads but this pair took you into their own little glamorous world and for a while Jonny and Abby were Fred and Ginger.
Abby Wells (Dale Tremont) oozed glamour and Hollywood style and what a gorgeous voice. her finesse when dancing made her look like she was floating above the stage.
Jonny Allen (Jerry Travers) is a very charismatic leading man and a very capable tap dancer. You instantly warm to him and his cheesy one liners.
Graham Ward (Horace Hardwick) makes us wait until almost the last number for us to really hear what a lovely singing voice he has in his duet with Sarah in "Outside Of That i Love You", a song that shows off Berlin's great comic writing style.
Sarah Walker-Smith (Madge Hardwick) has been teased back to performing by this brilliant musical and she delivers an effortless performance of womanly wit.
Drew Dennis (Alberto Beddini) not only shows off a fine singing voice - which anyone who has seen him before would know of anyway - but also a convincing Italian accent. He also is a very good character actor and managed to get some of the ladies in the audience a bit hot under the collar with his strip tease. Well the elderly pair I sat next to got a bit fidgety at this stage of the proceedings! Seriously though, this is a gem of a part and Drew shone.
Matt Wesson (Bates). What can I say about matt that I haven't said before. He is a brilliant character actor with a multitude of voices and accents, all highlighted in the role of Horace's man servant. He's always had an eye and ear for comedy and casting Matt in this role really plays to all of his strengths.
A big ensemble of actors and dancers fill the stage and it's always fun to not read the programme and spot the local actors from other shows, knowing that the ensemble is always going to be as strong and dependable as the main character actors.
Part of that ensemble is also one to watch vocal wise, and that is Jacob Fowler who plays the hotel singer.
There are so many fine vocal ensemble parts which also create that feeling of heavenly choirs. Think Hollywood, Broadway and the old Esther Williams vocal scores and that will give you an idea of the feel of these sections.
Rachael Rees does an amazing job in choreographing this show. The choreography plays a massive part in creating that glamorous world of the Hollywood and Broadway jet set and you really feel that you've been transported to that particular era with these dance routines. just magical, and after all this is Fred and Ginger's forte.
Directed by Ross Lowe and in his Carlton Operatic Directorial debut, Ross has brought together a team of performers that are so strong, you could easily forget that these lot do not do this full time as a profession.
Chris Rees is the Musical Director, and what an incredible score he has to work with. “Puttin’ On The Ritz” “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket”. “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”, “Top Hat, White Tie And Tails”, “Cheek To Cheek” are just a few of the magical songs that Chris and his wonderful 15 piece orchestra reproduce in this show.
For a musical of this size there are a lot of people, many I know from other local theatre groups who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the cogs of theatre turning as smooth as this group do.
A slick stage management and scene changers - and what amazing sets and scenes there were for this show, many taking your breath away at first sight.
Great lighting, designed by Tom Mowat and the Sound Design by Rob Kettridge, Rob Temperton and the Theatre Royal.
So if you want a night out that has class, style, great talent, clever script and lyrics, as well as infuriatingly catchy tunes and incredible dance routines, you need to look no further than this show.
“Top Hat” is at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 2 June 2018.