It’s time to put on your Top Hat in Newcastle this week! Top Hat the musical, was first performed in 2011 and is based on the 1935 film of the same name. Featuring music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the film showcased the glorious, tap-dancing magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and symbolised the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age. It is considered one of the greatest dance musicals of all time and Newcastle’s West End Operatic Society has taken on the challenge of bringing it to the stage of the Tyne Theatre and Opera house this week.
This is an ambitious undertaking for any amateur group, as there is an awful lot of difficult dancing in this show, and marshaling a huge cast on stage like this is no mean feat. The music of Irving Berlin is genius and just delightful. All time classics like Top Hat – ‘I’m putting on my top hat,’ ‘Putting on the Ritz,’ dancing ‘Cheek to cheek’ and ‘Let’s face the music and dance, ‘ are the unforgettable highlights, and to hear this gorgeous music played by a proper live orchestra is a real treat.
The two leads are really strong. James Forster as Jerry Travers really needs to be able to carry the show and I have to say I thought he pretty much achieved it. A ‘triple threat’ as we say in the world of showbiz, he can act, dance and has a lovely voice too, I was impressed. Bethanie Johnson was also very good as Dale Tremont, a lovely dancer who deserved to wear that beautiful floaty Ginger Rogers white gown with the feathers, while singing at the same time – no easy task I can confirm.
Helen Cash was also very good, as the sassy Madge Hardwick, although she doesn’t get on stage until the second half, she whips hapless husband Horace into shape with her cynical take on the state of marriage. The plot is a fairly candy floss affair – not unusual for the Hollywood musical – all based on a case of mistaken identity taken to the extreme. Its really all about the spectacle, the music and of course, the dancing!
Comedy highlights come from Charles Doherty as Beddini the Italian dress designer – I very much enjoyed his delivery of ‘Latins Know How,’ and Jonathan Cash gave a solid comedy performance as Bates the sleuthing manservant. I thoroughly enjoyed this performance of Top Hat and having spent many ears working in amateur theatre myself, both performing and directing, I appreciate the technical and logistical achievement that this show demonstrates. The choreography and music were extremely professional. These shows are huge group efforts and I defy anyone not to come out of a performance feeling uplifted and entertained. Top Hat is on at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House until Saturday with two matinee performances. Book tickets here http://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/events/west-end-operatic-society-presents-top-hat/