‘Top Hat’ at the Aldwych Theatre

It’s nostalgia, it’s frivolous, but it’s also tuneful and jolly, and suited us for an evening of humming along and foot tapping.  And, once again, as I was leaving the theatre I wished that could tap dance, but instead scuffed my feet along the pavement, bobbing up and down rather awkwardly fora bit before giving up and walking to the Tube station.

To steal my summary of the show from Micheal Billington’s review in the Guardian ‘great songs, daft book‘ just about covers it.  Based on the RKO movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, filled with Irving Berlin numbers, which although I may not know all the words, I can certainly sing along to for the first couple of verses and the chorus, with a jolly cast of hoofers, tap dancing their way through big production numbers, it was good fun.

The aggravation, for me came in the longuers of the second half when there wasn’t so much dancing, and a lot of silliness about funny foreigners and stupid misunderstandings that could have been cleared up within seconds if only one person had told the truth, but which went on and on, until I was nearly screaming ‘get on with it’ at them.  But then I may have been alone in this feeling, as the the rest of the audience seemed to be laughing like drains at things I didn’t find in the least bit amusing, and the group of women behind whom I queued for the Ladies at the end were saying how things really got going in the second half.

For me the greatest delight was in the big numbers where everyone was on stage dancing and singing, tapping their canes on the ground to add to the syncopated rhythms and tipping their hats.  And best of all, dancing waiters carrying trays laden with plastic food and drink.

One of my early theatre memories is of being taken to see Ginger Rogers in Hello Dolly at the open air theatre in St Louis in the late 1960s.  I sat fascinated by the chorus of dancers, leaping and spinning while keeping their laden trays above their heads.  How did they do it without everything falling off?  I couldn’t take my eyes off them, trying to work it out.  And then I saw – as they went out into the wings they let the trays hang down by their sides, and I realised everything was glued on.

Maybe some of the magic was gone forever, and I still look at stage effects and try and work out how they’re done, but a big musical will never now be complete for me without a dancing waiter!

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  1. Image of you bobbing and scuffling along the pavement – a YouTube goodie coming up?


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