From the very moment that the Top Hat Orchestra struck up, under the baton of Musical Director Rob Murray, the audience were transported back to the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age! The musical accompaniment was impressive, tight and well-balanced with the singers.
Harry Simkin (Jerry Travers) shone during the long and complex dance routines he was challenged to undertake with aplomb. His energetic performance and excellent facial expressions gave a fresh feeling to this classic role. He was wonderfully paired with Fiona Winning as Dale Tremont. At such a young age, Fiona gave a real maturity to the part through both excellent vocals and a fantastic characterisation. A highlight for me was during Isn’t This A Lovely Day when the pair showed real warmth as they fell for each other, showing the vulnerability of the characters at this point. This was one of the many well-directed moments of principal work within the show which director Alf Rai should be proud of.
Excellent performances also came from Roger Stokes (Horace Hardwick) and Nikki Rai (Madge Hardwick) who both provided some well-executed comic timing and laugh-out-loud moments! John Wiley gave a wacky and wonderful performance of the eccentric butler Bates, coping well with the many accents required! A special mention must go to Dom Napier (Alberto Beddini) who gave a truly show stopping performance. A particular highlight which had the audience in stitches was during his number Latins Know How – he certainly seems to know how to get the audience going!
The ensemble, dancers and supporting principals all performed well and worked hard to keep the show moving quickly and maintain the high level of energy needed for a show like this one. I would have liked to have seen more of the chorus during the dance numbers and would have welcomed more harmonies within the bigger chorus numbers, but this is a personal opinion.
The show was fast-paced but would have benefited from some quicker blackouts at times to avoid some awkward moments when actors were frozen, awaiting the much-needed lighting change! I am sure that the pace of scene changes will increase during the run.
Dance routines were well choreographed by Maria Shee and well executed by the small team of dancers – smiles at all times in a show like this are always welcome! The set was minimal at times and sometimes lacked the lavish feel required for such a show, but it was often well-dressed by the chorus in the hotel and lido scenes.
Overall, South Staffs Musical Theatre Company has a show to be proud of and the standing ovation on the opening night was clearly well-received!
Top Hat runs at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 13th October.
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