Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Top Hat On Stage take 2

So on the 19th May, one month after it opened in The West End i went and saw Top Hat on stage again, I was deeply disappointed that i'd missed both the Press and the Gala nights that happened on the 9th and 10th May thanks to confusion over lectures and that i didn't have anything suitable to wear (in Leicester sadly my beautiful dress was at home in Cambridge) not to mention the money side of things having the possible chance to meet Ava Astaire would have made up for a lot but ah well that is life.

I took the copy of the programme that i'd purchased at the opening on April 19th so i didn't have to buy another but this time they also had the Souvenir Brochure's for sale, although i had to wait until the interval to buy one. I was however able to buy Kathleen Riley's book 'The Astaires Fred & Adele' which i have been dying to get hold of since it was published, bookstores and amazon.co.uk had assured me that it had a UK publishing date of May 24th and that i didn't have long to wait and knowing my luck they will all sell it cheaper than the £18 ($28) i paid however it was well worth it (i've already finished it, could someone please write a new book on Ginger!!)

I again was fortunate enough to have a front row seat but this time to the far left of the stage, the guy sitting next to me was very friendly and asked why i'd come to see the show, I explained that i adore Top Hat (the film) and Fred and Ginger and that I'd seen the show before forgotten my open mind and had decided that i should give it another chance, there are rumours folks that Top Hat is in rehearsal to open on Broadway, fact or fiction it would be interesting!!

I think because this time i knew more or less what to expect that I enjoyed the show far more this time, it still grates that they don't pronounce Tremont correctly but slowly the dances are improving :)

When i got hold of the Souvenir Brochure and was able to read it i gained a far better understanding of why there are so many differences between the film and the show, especially in terms of choreography. An article written by Ava Astaire Mckenzie included a comment that i thought summed it up rather well,
"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"

It reminded me how the first time i saw the show i wondered why they'd put Summer Strallen in a blonde wig, because Dale could have had any colour hair, Ginger of course was a blonde but the idea is that Summer is portraying the character of Dale, then again with all those different hair styles (and they pretty much followed the different Hair Styles Ginger had in the movie) a wig clearly was the quickest option!

The brochure also explains why you can't just transport film choreography to the stage, Chambers and Strallen are not afterall Astaire and Rogers. Main changes are to the Top Hat, White Tie and Tails number where there is no shooting of anyone and to the Cheek to Cheek number where the fabulous lifts are missing
In the No Strings number where Dale storms upstairs to find Jerry dancing, Jerry is no longer dancing with a statue as in the movie but is now dancing with a hat stand which is reminiscent of Fred doing exactly the same thing in Royal Wedding (1951, Wedding Bells in the UK)

Thanks to the brochure and also remembering that this is the stage show and not the movie i did enjoy it much more this time then the first time, i was amused to notice that during the Top Hat, White Tie and Tails number where he wasnt required on stage, the guy playing Horace was sitting in one of the boxes, where as the "producer" of the "show" (think of the movie here) he was in the right place hehe!!

I went and said thankyou to the orchestra again after the show, i was fairly touched to be remembered by a couple of them!! They asked if i'd enjoyed myself more this time and were glad to hear i had and then asked if i'd managed to get any autographs the last time which i sadly replied i hadn't. They did offer to get my programme signed and return it at a later date but then suggested that if i wasn't in a rush i could go round the back to the stage door where i'd likely get a chance to meet some of the actors :)

As I wasn't in a rush i was more than happy to take up their suggestion stopping on the way to try and get another hoodie, although unfortunately they've been popular so i was unlucky there, but there is always next time.

I joined a few other fans waiting round at the stage door, i then realised apart from the programme the only things i had with me were books on Astaire, and if i wanted to be able to read the signatures then in the books they were gonna have to go. I'd tweeted Tom Chambers a few days earliar about being in awe because he is quoted in the book 'Dancing on Astaire' and decided that would be good as any for them to sign (hopefully the author won't mind too much!!) i thought that'd be better over Hyam's book

I almost missed meeting Summer Strallen because without that blonde wig she looks so different!! Fortunately other people were also outside to meet her otherwise i may have missed that opportunity completely (incidently her rendition of 'Better Luck Next Time' was much improved compared to the Opening Night in April) She was nice however as was the person who lent me a pen (silly thing not to carry when seeking autographs hahaha)

I then caught Martin Ball who is playing Horace, he'd spotted me tapping my foot in time to the music from the box he even remembered where i'd been sitting, that impressed me, he was very nice and was impressed that not only had i seen it twice but that i have plans to come and see it again, he suggested that maybe i should try out different parts of the theatre and see where offers the best viewing point, he asked about why i liked the show and i explained about being a major fan of Ginger and Fred, he was awfully nice and personalised his autograph :)

I then got chatting to the other two people waiting for Tom Chambers, i envied them dreadfully as it emerged that one of them had met Ginger and the other Fred, oh how i wish i'd been born in the right place at the right time, they were fairly amazed at my apparent amount of knowledge and suggested that if i ever went on Master Mind, i could choose Fred and Ginger as my specialist subject fairly easily ;) They did ask more than once why i hadnt managed to attend the press night, boy could i kick myself for not being able to attend, if i'd known in advance that Ava was going to be in attendance (not to mention the daughters of Irving Berlin) then i likely would have got myself there even if just outside

Took quite a wait before Tom came out, i don't know how popular S Club 7 has ever been on the other side of the pond but Rachel Stevens who has had a fairly decent career in her own right came out and i didn't even notice who she was, i grew up with their music so am very annoyed with myself and trying to keep a low profile on not noticing her, my best friend is already appalled with me...

When he did get out however it was entirely worth the wait, what i most appreciated was him not only remembering my tweet about him being quoted in 'Dancing on Astaire' but when he learnt that it was my second time of seeing the show and that i'd seen the opening night in The West End he asked what i thought had changed, got better etc, he was also impressed to hear that I have already planned to go and see it again,when he signed my book he put thank you :) he also got what i meant when i said physically he's like Gene Kelly, being like one dancer is better than being like no dancer i guess haha! I do think he plays a good Jerry, even if he is no Astaire he is on par in technical dancing skill and i look forward to seeing the continued improvements

I did get quite a kick out of waiting because it reminded me of what it would have been like in the 1920s/30s/40s when everyone left through the stage door, like how we see 'Josh and Dinah' leaving the theatre in 'The Barkleys of Broadway' very grateful to the orchestra for the directions, if i could dance anything decently i would have been doing it!! Excitement was rather high, so however was the cold, London at 11pm in May is not particuarly warm!! If not Dancing i was definitely Floating on Air!!

My ticket is already firmly booked for June 20th, this time from the right side of the theatre and a friend is showing interest in joining me to see it in July :)


  1. Wow - great stuff, Kat! Good to hear it may be heading over here...of course, it won't be close to MY locale, although I am still 'angling' for that Baltimore trip which I will try to parlay into a Boston trip :-]

    But the show sounds great...it's probably a bit hard to not 'compare' to the movie, but...I guess once you get over that, it should be a pretty enjoyable show... maybe it will hit on Broadway and will then maybe a touring company...of course, it will probably be different actors, but...who knows.

    hey, does Dale wear the feather dress? To me, THAT'S the 'litmus test' of it being 'Top Hat'... :-]

    But glad to hear you had a great (and successful!) night at the show... honestly, I've only been to a few shows in my life, both here in town... would love to see a Broadway show... 'Chicago' might be a good one, as it DOES have the 'Roxie' connection... and it MUST be pretty good, as it's been running pretty long, if I remember...

    well, KIG, Kat! Hope school finishes up for ya...sorry you got 'strung out' on some classes...I know the feeling.


  2. Sadly while a replica of the famous feather dress was made it hasn't been seen since the show was on tour (much to mine and it appears a lot of people's disappointment) from the video from press night it would seem it didn't make an appearance there either, hopefully maybe in the future it will be worn again :)

    I've got another year in school unfortunately, thanks to them messing me around, but luckily its only the one class, give me time to persue the other ideas i've got going around in my head!!

  3. What Ginger Rogers fan wouldn't get a kick at waiting at the "Stage Door" following seeing "Top Hat"? heehehe :) I wish I had been there too.

  4. next time i'll remember my camera!!!

  5. I saw this when it was touring, before the West End opening - and I loved it! I had to tell myself, sternly, that I wasn't to compare Tom and Summer to Fred and Ginger, just to enjoy the spectacle and therefore didn't get into negative thoughts. I thought the sets, costumes (including the feather dress!)and staging were fabulous and I'm going to see the West End version in half term to see how it's developed.

    I have just finished the Astaire book by Kathleen Riley and found it a fascinating read.

  6. CMM - When you saw it on tour were they still using the Replica of the Famous Feather Dress?
    I'm still kicking myself for missing out seeing it :(

  7. Yes, the feather dress was used - and there was an audible sigh from the (mostly female!)audience as Summer started to dance! Wonderful photos in the show brochure, too.

    I was disappointed to hear it's not being used - I wonder why not, when it's so iconic?

  8. I can only guess that it might not stand up to being worn so much?

    From the various youtube videos of it on tour it looks wonderful, the peach dress being worn now not so much :(

    1. ...now, I am FAR from a fashion expert, but...it would SEEM that they could whup up a more 'sturdy' version of the feather dress, no? I mean, this is the 21st bloomin' century!!! :-) Of course, you would AHVE to ahve just a few of the feathers shed off, just for 'effect'... and, for the record, I'm with Ginger...there REALLY wasn't that many feathers flying on the set that fateful day...well, physically, anyway!

      KIG, y'all!

  9. the strands of yarn on the dress being worn now fly off pretty freqently! its comparable to the dress Judy Garland wore in Easter Parade

    Re the famous feathers, every account on that day is different!

  10. I asked Summer Strallen last night about why the feather dress was no longer making appearances and it would appear that if enough people rang up and asked for it back it would likely come back!!

  11. oh and yes, i am appalled that you missed rachel stevens!! Lol xx