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Top Hat Review – Bristol Hippodrome


The Bristol Hippodrome

Tuesday 18th – Saturday 29th November 2014

Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin

Based on the RKO motion picture

Top Hat has won three Olivier Awards, for ‘Best New Musical’, ‘Best Choreography’ and ‘Best Costume Design’ and it’s not hard to see why.


Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), the famous American tap dancer, arrives in London to appear in his first West End show. Travers meets the irresistible Dale Tremont (Charlotte Gooch), the girl of his dreams, and follows her across Europe in an attempt to win her heart.


Dancing throughout the show is polished and professional. Ensemble numbers like glitzy show opener “Puttin’ on the Ritz” get us in the mood for a major dose of 1930’s glamour. Stepping admirably into the shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, are Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch. But all the performances, right down to the dancing maids and bellboys are worthy of mention.


Classy and expensive looking, the set is quite something. Gigantic sliding doors provide a slick system for facilitating the numerous scene changes.  We’re transported smoothly between gentleman’s club, Hollywood stage, hotel suites and even by plane to a hotel in Venice overlooking the canals. From the Art Deco hotel facade to smart hotel reception and opulent chandeliers, the sets are impressive.
Sound effects and lighting are also top notch. With a few competent technical tweaks we witness changes in the weather such as dappled sunlight giving way to thunder and lightning.


There’s an amusing “battle of the sexes” theme where the men complain of their dragonish, money-grabbing wives and the women patronise their husbands but ultimately forgive them their weaknesses. How many soaps today still echo this with their strong female characters?
Oh and look out for the squeaky shoes, amorous Italian, besotted American and gondaliering butler . . . The boys’ were in agreement that their favourite character was the deadpan butler.


The women in beautiful dresses, shoes and hats ooze an elegance belonging to a bygone age. And the men? I can just imagine those 1930s women day dreaming about the handsome male actors dancing around the stage in their top hats tails, white tie and the shiniest of patent leather shoes!
My eight year old was particularly impressed with the exotic female dancers, with costumes so glitzy he wondered if they were actually illuminated!


Lots of very well known music like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “Puttin’ On the Ritz”.


The cast is strong with plenty of memorable performances.  Stepping admirably into the shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in the lead roles of Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, are Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch, who both return to Top Hat having previously performed these roles in the West End. They are joined by Clive Hayward who returns as Horace Hardwick, the role he played in the West End, Rebecca Thornhill as Madge Hardwick, Sebastien Torkiaas Alberto Beddini and John Conroy as Horace’s valet Bates. 


This is a fun production with the kind of humour you’d be happy to watch alongside your Grandma. The boys also enjoyed the show. I’d say it’s suitable for any age.


Top Hat was the most successful picture of the nine movies Astaire and Rogers made together. When it premiered at the Radio City Music Hall in 1935 it broke all box office records. The night we went, the Hippodrome wasn’t full, which considering the quality of the show, surprised me. I suspect this might be due to the lack of a specific gimmick, like the tremendous downpour in Singin’ in the Rain.

This is a beautifully polished production. The set, costumes, dancing and acting are thoroughly impressive. Highly recommended.



Tuesday 18th – Saturday 29th November

Evenings at 7.30 pm

Matinees on Wed & Thu at 2.30 pm

No performances Sun 23rd or Mon 24th

Tickets: £25.40 – £58.40

Concessions available on certain performances


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