Thursday, 5 November 2015

One Little Journey and There You Are...

The next scene in Top Hat (on stage) was created just for the stage show and features the hotel guests, with the typical asking of where to see the sights! The song is about that hotel in Belgravia, that it's simply sublime, that it's a smart hotel and one that suits them very well!! Bit of a dance from the bell hops before the scene seams into Bedini coming to buy flowers, which takes us into scene 5...

The only part that puzzles me is this being an Irving Berlin Musical that this should be an Irving Berlin tune, its not however one i've ever come across, any one know? (Annoyingly it's not on the Top Hat on stage soundtrack)

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Top Hat (1935) vs Top Hat on stage Part 3

Top Hat (1935)
Top Hat on stage
Part 3
Hotel Suite

The scene starts off almost identical for both the movie and the stage show, Horace talks about how Bates says that 'a square tie is the only possible tie to be worn with evening clothes' and that he prefers the butterfly, Jerry says he thinks Bates is right to which Horace replies 'Bates is never right' Cue Bate's appearance where he introduces himself to Jerry saying 'We are Bates' Jerry's reply is 'And we are Jerry Travers' Bates asks Jerry if he can make a personal observation, Jerry says ok as long as it's not too personal, it turns out that Bates merely wants to compliment Jerry on his excellent taste in ties!

We find out in this scene that Bates entered Horace's life in very different ways between the movie and in the stage show.

In the movie Bates was 'found' when Horace sent an old pair of shoes to the Salvation Army, Bates returned wearing them and has been wearing Horace's good ones ever since.

However in the stage show it transpires that Madge 'gave' Bates as a sort of wedding gift and that Bates is a bit of company for him when Madge is away. After this we learn that Horace has got himself into a spot of bother but what it is we don't yet find out.

In both the movie and the stage show Horace tells Jerry that Madge is insisting that they fly down to Italy for the weekend, Jerry points out that he has a performance Monday night and can't possibly go, Horace tells Jerry that they must go... A friend is visiting and there is something in the air, Jerry must surely know how wives are, Jerry of course doesn't

In the movie Jerry leads us into 'No Strings' by telling Horace 'In me you see a youth who is completely on the loose, no yens no yearnings, no strings, no connections, no ties to my affections...' and thus into the chorus first, then the verse followed by the chorus again

However in the stage show Jerry tells us 'No thanks Horace, many a man who has fallen in love with a dimple, makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl' before leading us straight into the verse and then the chorus

In both however Jerry goes in to the tap number fairly quickly, in the film we move to Ginger's room where we see her being woken up, reaching for the phone 'This is Dale Tremont, I would like to speak to the hotel manager, immediately'
On stage as part of the set we see the part where the bar is turn round, above we see the specialist dancer following Jerry's every move and below we see an annoyed Dale being woken up by the noise and thus the telephone call

Horace is marched to the telephone by Jerry in both and is excited because 'some girl wants to see him' and tells the hotel manager that she can't come up here and that he'll come down himself

In both the movie and the show Jerry finds an object to dance with, in the film it's a marble(?) statue whilst in the show it's a hat stand (reminiscent of Fred dancing with a hat stand in Royal Wedding (1951), 

In the stage show this is how Dale finds him, easy access as Horace has thoughtlessly (or helpfully depending on your viewpoint) left the door open, in the movie Dale is left having to knock on the door although as Jerry doesn't hear her she is left to open it herself and his face is an absolute picture

In Top Hat (on stage) Dale makes her presence known by telling Jerry that 'You make a lovely couple' his reply is a simple 'Why, Thank you', Turns out 'Hatty' is both Stylish and Contemporary but 'thin' ;-) Hatty incidently got her name because when Dale asks 'if she has a name' Jerry promptly hangs his hat upon her

Fred's affliction now differs, in the movie its 'St Vitus Dance' but in the show its become 'Tapititus' possibly because modern audiences wouldn't get the reference, however the cure remains the same, one thing can stop Jerry 'his nurses always put their arms around him' Dale's answer shows the change of the times, in 1935 she says she'll 'call the house detective but in 2012 this has changed to the hotel manager.

Also in the stage show Jerry points out that Dale hasn't said 'good night' she turns to him and says 'No, I didn't', in the film Jerry merely calls good night to Dale as she walks down the stairs, another difference here of course is that in Top Hat on stage the entire scene takes part in Horace's hotel room whereas in the movie Jerry and Dale move into the corridor

This aside Jerry still discovers the sand when he's about to drop his spent match in it, In the movie Horace meets Jerry in the corridor actually carrying the bin complaining that the phone call was actually for Jerry and that someone (Dale) has made a complaint, the same happens in the show except on this occasion Horace enters his room to find Jerry already scattering the sand on the floor

It would appear that Jerry has met the complainant, that she is lovely and that she wants to sleep and that in turn he has appointed himself her official 'sand man'

What follows is one of the loveliest of sand dances ever, The dance critic Arlene Croce in 'The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book' calls it the 'Sexiest Scene' on film, it definitely translated very well onto the stage!!

On film Jerry's dancing not only sent Dale and Horace to sleep it sent him to sleep also, on stage however Hatty returns to him and he merely puts his finger to his lips saying 'shhh'

Friday, 17 July 2015

Ava Astaire's Interview as Published in the Top Hat on Stage Brochure

Bit of a pain to scan the page so as you can see, i've just typed up the interview with Ava Astaire as published in the Top Hat on stage brochure :-)

The Timing Seemed Right...
By Ava Astaire McKenzie

'In the fall of 2009 a producer by the name of Kenny Wax asked to come and see me with a project he wanted to discuss. He explained that he was very committed to mounting a stage production of Top Hat which had been one of my father's most successful movies for the RKO studios. He explained that he had approached the Irving Berlin Music Company in New York with the idea but they had turned down his request. He told me that he was going to go and see them regardless and that if he had my support, it would certainly carry a great deal more weight. So I wrote a letter to Ted Chaplin who runs the Irving Berlin Music Company saying that I felt the timing seemed right, that it was a very good idea and I'd have no objection. Ted also runs the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation, so he has a great deal of influence in the world of musical theatre and in time he was able to open the door for Kenny to meet Ted Hartley who owns RKO Pictures. By the strangest of co-insidences my own husband Richard was an old friend of Ted Hartley from our days in Los Angeles, so on Kenny's return trip he went armed with another letter, this time for Ted Hartley, which helped to oil the wheels for a second time.

I also thought that if Top Hat was done well, it would look so wonderful on stage and I really hoped that it was something that would happen.

My only real reservation was that the actor chosen to play the male lead would not be playing Fred Astaire, but would be portraying the character of Jerry Travers that my father played in the movie.

In November 2010 we were asked to attend the first read and sing-through of the new script which had been adapted for the stage. I was so impressed, really amused and thoroughly entertained and I remember looking forward to seeing the show with anticipation, the lavish sets, the beautiful costumes. I had nothing but positive thoughts about the prospects for the show.

Whether my father would have endorsed it is difficult to say. He very much preferred to look forward and not back and perhaps he would even have been puzzled as to why someone wanted to re-create it after all these years.

But I'd like to think that the wonder of seeing and hearing a large company of 31 people, all tapping simultaneously on stage to Irving Berlin's great melodies, should in itself be extremely exciting. And then of course you can add the choreographer's magic on top of that. Bill Deamer, who had been entrusted with creating the routines for the stage show, choreographed a concert that we did at the London Paladium called 'Fred Astaire: His daughter's tribute'. Bill has a wonderful understanding of the period and is the perfect choice, but then I would say that as I was the one who recommended him to the producer.

Almost every professional dancer that I have ever come across has said the same thing to me - that my father was the inspiration for their career. That's quite a legacy. I emphasise though, that he worked incredibly hard, no one had to tell me that, it was obvious and I saw it for myself. When I worked with him on his television specials he insisted on at least twice the amount of dance rehearsal that would have been the norm. He was a perfectionist. Perhaps this production of Top Hat will excite another generation of dancers to enter the profession and I think that my father would have been happy about that.

The movie of Top Hat was filmed and released before I was born, so I don't have any specific recollections.
I do know that, despite things that have been written, Daddy and Ginger had great respect for each other and liked working together. Perhaps they weren't great social friends, they had their own lives, but they certainly did not fight. I remember Ginger coming to the house in Beverly Hills and all of us eating in the casual day room rather than the formal dining room.
Although I was unaware of it at the time, in retrospect I realise that I grew up in a magical world. Our neighbours were Charlie Chaplin on one side and Mary Pickford on the other. Among my parents' good friends were Cole Porter, Merle Oberon, Sam Goldwyn and David Niven. Randolph Scott was my godfather, Clark Gable was a regular visitor to our ranch in the San Fernando Valley, and I remember going to Liza Minnelli's birthday party where there were elephants.

Daddy, of course, was great friends with Irving Berlin. I recall answering the phone to Irving's unmistakable voice on many occasions, and when I was a very young girl I knew his daughters. We met up again at the rehearsed reading. How nice that Top Hat has reunited the Berlins and the Astaires after all these years'

Top Hat on Stage had its World Premiere at Milton Keynes Theatre on the 16th August 2011, it had a successful 17 week tour in the UK, with an additional pre West End tour in the spring of 2012  before transferring to London's West End where it opened for previews at the Aldwych Theatre on the 19th April 2012 with it's 'official' opening on the 9th May 2012.

Top Hat ran for 18 months in the West End with its closing show on the 26th October 2013, during this period it was nominated for 7 Olivier Awards and won 3 including 'Best New Musical', 'Best Costume Design' and 'Best Choreographer', Top Hat also won 'Best Night Out' in the Evening Standards Theatre Awards 2012

A further 47 week tour of the UK and Ireland began on the 12th of August 2014 and is due to finish on the 25th July 2015

A Japan Tour going to Tokyo and Osaka commences on the 30th of September

I can 100% verify that it's an amazing production, I freely admit that I've seen it more than a few times ;-) and thoroughly recommend it :-)


Top Hat (1935) vs Top Hat on Stage Part 2

Top Hat (1935)
Top Hat on Stage
The Thackeray Club

Here the film and the stage show are almost the same, although a few moments shown in the film are different and some of the lines are different

In the movie we see people entering the club and see a plaque reading  The London Thackeray Club founded in 1864, we then see another sign announcing that Silence Must be observed in the club rooms

Jerry it transpires is waiting for his friend Horace Hardwick and is obviously getting bored as demonstrated in both the film and the stage show.
We learn when Horace arrives at The Thackeray Club (eventually) that Jerry has been waiting for him for quite some time. When Horace is speaking to the concierge and has finished telling them that Mr Travers is indeed the celebrated American Gentleman (film)/ celebrated American Performer (stage) and that he's come over to star in his show, in the film Horace tells the concierge that he doesn't want any of the members (of the club) to know as he wants to surprise them, the concierge's wonderful reply is that 'he's sure they'll be surprised, first leaving Horace grinning and then his facial expression changing quickly as he realises what the man has said.
As Horace goes to find Jerry the conversation remains quiet until having explained to Jerry that he has many things to tell and that he wants him to come back to his hotel, turns back to the concierge to retrieve their things, Jerry takes the opportunity to liven the club up and blasts a tap barrage causing Horace to come and drag him away and an annoyed room of club members behind them

In the stage show the concierge instead reassures Horace that his lips are sealed and that he won't say a word to anyone, when Horace goes over to Jerry they have a conversation which is half quiet and goes loud at random times ensuring a loud Shhh, Horace tells Jerry that they can't talk in here and they prepare to leave, as the concierge comes over with Jerry's hat it is noticed that when he walks his shoes squeak, Jerry having established that it's not him, blasts into a barrel of taps leaving the Thackeray club members in a state of disturbed exasperation

Unlike in the film where the next scene is straight to the hotel, in the stage show we see Horace and Jerry with Horace trying with some desperation to attract a taxi, Jerry is asking him about business, thankfully it seems that business is good for Horace as he then explains he has an expensive wife to support, Jerry then asks about Madge and expresses his disappointment that she'll be missing his opening night, it turns out that Horace isn't so bothered about this as apparently opening nights make Madge jumpy and the only thing that calms her down is spending Horace's money and that in turn makes him jumpy.
This is followed by banter between Horace and Jerry including that 'last week Horace went to a funeral and caught the bouquet!' Jerry kindly assures him that he's not unlucky and that he's about to have a hit show, Horace recovers and tells Jerry that not only is he right but that he must treat him to dinner, fortunately for them a cab driver finally appears and we learn that their destination is The Excelsior Hotel where the restaurant apparently serves the best foie gras in London

This then leads onto the hotel suite... Watch out for part 3 :-)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Top Hat 1935 Vs Top Hat on Stage Part 1

Don't get too excited about 2 posts on the same day ;-)

I considered at some point during Top Hat on stage's West End run doing a detailed comparison of Top Hat (the movie) and Top Hat (the stage show), somehow its now almost the end of the UK tour and I've only just started putting pen to paper... The aim is to post comparisons scene by scene and I will warn in advance that it could take some time, however for now here is the comparison of the 'opening'

Top Hat 1935
Top Hat on Stage

Top Hat (1935) starts with credits that include us, (the viewers) first seeing Fred’s feet coming into view and then Ginger’s feet dancing into join them. Audiences in 1935 knew that Fred and Ginger together equalled dancing and that wherever the movie happened to be set that their characters would be American.

Top Hat on Stage however sets their opening on the stage of a New York theatre where ‘Jerry Travers’ is performing for the last time for the foreseeable future on Broadway. The number being performed here is ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ a song that tells the listener all about life on ‘Park Avenue’, interestingly for a show set in 1935 the version sang was adjusted for the 1948 movie ‘Easter Parade’ Maybe they felt that a life on Park Avenue was more appropriate than Lennox Avenue.
At the stage door we learn from Jerry’s manager answering questions from Newspaper men, that Jerry is West End bound and the following week will be starring in a new review at ‘The Prince’s Theatre’ London (interesting to note that Fred and Adele starred in ‘Funny Face’ 1927 at the same theatre). When Jerry comes out he is asked what can we tell our readers when they might see him again.
We learn that Jerry has spent the last 4 years on Broadway, it’s like home and that he will be back!

Next scene should be up tomorrow, after that it depends on how fast I can scribble it (I may need to keep the film playing during the entire time ;-) shame I can't do that with the stage show also!!

Happy Birthday Ginger!!!!

Unsuprisingly I feel rather bad about not posting anying in months, something called a wedding got in the way ;-)

Ginger for me was one of the most talented actresses, not only was she a fabulous dancer but had that rare ability to be successful at anything she put her hand to, being a comedienne, wowing everyone in 'straight roles', keeping people on their seats in film noir, playing skeet, drawing, painting, tennis and the list goes on!!!

Despite not posting my love for Ginger and Fred hasn't gone anywhere, if anything I've been doing my best with promoting their movies everytime I travel to see the stage production of Top Hat, as on tour i've now seen it 25 times (making 52 times in total) that adds up to a fair few locations! (Japan tour is next)

I'm also very happy that the Victoria & Albert Museum in London are hosting an event in September to celebrate 80 years since the release of Top Hat, it goes without saying that i'm looking forward to it!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Dancing Cheek to Cheek

A few weeks ago a programme aired on the BBC on the UK about the history of British dance crazes, the title of the programme charmingly was 'Dancing Cheek to Cheek'

About 20 minutes into the 3rd and final programme Len Goodman launched into talking about Vernon and Irene Castle and the influence they had on Britain in the 1910s, if anyone has seen the footage of the first half of this youtube video (have to say i'm fonder of the second half for reasons known to anyone who has seen it)
I didn't realise until now that this formed part of a film that was aired to movie audiences in 1915 'The Whirl Of Life', effectively the first dance training video!!
They also thankfully mentioned that Fred was inspired by them and so effectively had they inspired the dancing of Fred and Ginger that they had made a movie about them!! (Fred and Ginger made a movie about Vernon and Irene before anyone decides to pull a pun ;)) Which on that particular note it is a shame that only people today who are familiar with dance and its history seem to have any idea of who they were, I find it hard enough sometimes to find people who have heard of Fred and Ginger let along trying to find people who know exactly who Vernon and Irene were let alone what they were famous for!!

The tv show has helpfully thrown up a few 'new' to me photos of Vernon and Irene

It is somewhat disappointing that there are no further references to Fred and Ginger and disappointing again that there were no mentions of Fred and Adele especially considering how much more beloved they were in the UK compared to the US and of course considering who Adele married and all, then again Vernon was British which helps with talking about British dance history!!

I'm sure you'll likely have seen most if not all of these before but they make a nice round off/comparison non the less :-)