Friday, 23 February 2018

"Top Hat", Glasgow King's Theatre, 21/2/18

In the world of musicals it can honestly be said that many a show is kept alive by the efforts of the amateur company who often perform musicals rarely produced by professional producers and who further the audience and potential fandom of these shows in doing so. It will probably be the case with "Top Hat" which enjoyed a successful, if curtailed, West End run (winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical) and a following UK tour but which has since all but dropped off the map.

Based on the classic 1935 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers comedy movie with songs by Irving Berlin the plot follows dancer Jerry Travers who falls in love with Dale Tremont after his tap dancing disturbs her sleep in the hotel room below his. Tremont incorrectly assumes Travers is the stage producer Horace Hardwick who has brought Travers over to London to open a new show. Hardwick's wife is Tremont's friend and so Dale is disgusted when the man she assumes to be married proposes to her. Screwball comedy ensues.
Of course, the plot is rather weak, as to be expected, but is still none-the-less charming especially when delivered with such aplomb as Paisley Musical and Operatic Society bring to it. It is the Irving Berlin songs that really make the show and with such classics as "Cheek To Cheek", "Puttin' On The Ritz" and "Let's Face The Music And Dance" it's hard to go wrong. 

Berlin's music is handled beautifully by musical director Sean Stirling who treats the score with assurance. There is an element of the ol' Hollywood Glamour that is brought out which succinctly suits the production. 
"Top Hat" is famous as a dance production and PMOS had a difficult challenge before them but their efforts pay off with the elegant choreography of Marion Baird delivered well and confidently by the cast; so much so that I believe the company could have handled even more complex material. 
Alasdair Hawthorn directs another assured production, bringing out the humour and the effervescence of the material with ease. The lighting could be more focused and varied but, in reality, this is a small niggle and, sure, there are moments that require tightening - especially in the transitions - but I've no doubt they'll be rectified as the run continues. There are, indeed, some clever location reveals in the first act which I only wish had continued into the second and it is such small details as these that I enjoy and that Hawthorn often delivers. 

The production has double-cast its leads and, on this occasion, I saw Greg Robertson and Claire Logue as "Jerry" and "Dale" respectively who both lead the company amiably and with confidence. Robertson has a natural charm and easy voice whilst Logue is a sweet and funny performer and they play well opposite each other. They are supported by a company who make the most of the humour and the staging. Alastair McCall as "Horace Hardwick", Iain G. Condie as his manservant "Bates" and Ross Nicol as the flamboyant "Alberto Beddini" all have plenty of opportunity to shine and do so with hilarity. Lindsey Ross also shines as "Madge Hardwick", prowling the stage with a commanding presence and brilliant comedic traits. The ensemble are also ebullient and there are a number who stand out in the odd scene including Robin Cameron's "Florist" and Jenny Carty's "Receptionist". The utilisation of the ensemble is another strength in Hawthorn's direction and there is plenty of business within the company to occupy the audience member.

"Top Hat" is a few hours of joyous, buoyant entertainment filled with cracking musical numbers and numerous laughs delivered by a vibrant, vivacious company who continue to push themselves and each other for the sake of their audiences' enjoyment.

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