Review: Top Hat, Bristol Hippodrome

22 03 2012

They call it a triple threat in the musical theatre trade: someone who can act, sing and dance. Tom Chambers can act. He can sing, and in a convincing American accent. But compared to the professionals surrounding him on the Bristol Hippodrome stage in Top Hat, he cannot dance.

There is no doubt that Chambers would not be stepping into the shoes of Fred Astaire from the original 1935 film if he had not won Strictly Come Dancing in 2008, and as the star of this show it is his name in lights and the name that will bring punters in through the door due to the huge popularity of the BBC’s primetime talent show.

He won Strictly in the same year that John Sergeant withdrew from the competition after repeatedly avoiding being voted off despite having as much grace as an elephant on stilts, memorably pulling his dance partner across the floor during one routine.

In this company of journalists, singers and models, Chambers shone. But his star is diminished when in the company of professional dancers of the calibre of the ensemble and leads in Top Hat, soon transferring to the West End.

This was brought sharply into focus when performing a routine with a hatstand as a silhouetted member of the ensemble performed an identical routine, just much better.

It felt like a cruel contrast for him to be paired with Summer Strallen as Dale Tremont, whose delicate movements, strong lines and soft hands were an absolute joy. Alongside her, Holby City’s Sam Strachan was messy and heavy, a look of concentration on his tense face through some of the more difficult dances.

Chambers fulfilled the cheeky chappy role of his character, American tap dance sensation Jerry Travers, and was imbued with the necessary confidence, but lacked the arrogance Travers requires to fully come to life.

The decadence of the 1930s was evocatively brought to life in the sets, which took us from hotel suite to beach to bar, and from New York to London to Venice. There were also sumptuous costumes, especially the top hats and tails, and of course a beautiful dress made of ostrich feathers as a compliment to the dress Ginger wore in the film.

Bristol Old Vic alumnus Stephen Boswell as man servant Bates almost stole the show, while Portuguese Ricardo Afonso as Alberto Beddini also brought some lovely comic touches to a role that he created in the workshop production.

The attention, however, was on Chambers. On this performance, he is no threat; but watch out for Summer Strallen, as she is the true star in this hit and miss new musical.

Top Hat is at the Bristol Hippodrome until March 31. Click here for more information.


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5 responses

25 03 2012
TSmith

I must have seen a completely different show to the person who wrote this review! Tom Chambers is a star and didn’t look out of place at all with the rest of the cast. It is a fantastic musical and I completely disagree with the comments of this reviewer.

27 03 2012
Jonesy

I couldn’t agree more with TSmith. It was fantastic & I would go and see it again with him leading

27 03 2012
Kevin Legg

Mystic Isle Travel, a Coach Company in Worcestershire took 3 Coaches (150 people) to see Top Hat in Leeds during December 2011. Every person that joined us on those trips would have willingly gone again the following day if space had been available. The review is one persons view and I, like the other two respondents totally disagree with the reviewer. Top Hat is a superb show and All the cast are excellent Tom Chambers included, I wonder if the reviewer can dance as badly as Tom Chambers I wish I could.

Kevin Legg
Mystic Isle Travel

30 03 2012
K.Bader

I totally agree with the above comments. There was great depth with the whole cast performing magnificently. In fact my only slight criticism was of Suimmer Strallen singing through her nose so much when she sang loudly. But it was a beautiful, funny, witty show and received a standing ovation at a matinee performance. And Tom Chambers has come a long way from Strictly days. We knew he could act (Holby), we knew he could dance but now we know he can sing as well. A superb show I would recommend to anyone.

2 04 2012
Hayley Rare

I was really impressed by the Birmingham production and think it’ll scale up brilliantly for the West End stage. Just got my Top Hat London Tickets
for the summer.

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