Top Hat *****
Grand Theatre, Leeds
The moment the orchestra struck up, I wanted to dance.
As a young child I remember on wet Sunday afternoons watching Astaire and Rogers films on TV with my granny and being blown away by the sheer magic of it all – a magic that has been faithfully retained in the stage production of RKO’s motion picture Top Hat.
Making the transition from screen to stage is no easy task, but with its elaborate art deco designed sets and fabulous costumes Top Hat unfurls the glamour and glitz of the period. However, it’s the energetic and stylish big ensemble numbers such as Top Hat, Cheek to Cheek and The Piccolino that really set this show apart from the rest.
The story itself is light. It’s boy meets girl with a little mistaken identity. Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen play Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont the Astaire and Rogers roles. They are beautifully matched and put their own particular spin on the characters.
There’s some superb character acting from Stephen Boswell as Bates the Butler while Martin Bell as Horace Hardwick and Vivien Parry as Madge, his hardboiled wife, add some wonderful comic moments to the plot.
But one of the shows biggest assets is its energetic, hard-working ensemble who sing, dance and double innumerable cameo roles so superbly.
Top Hat is a night of pure escapism and one that’s guaranteed to set your toes tapping all the way home.
To December 10.
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
This year’s Christmas production is underway at West Yorkshire Playhouse and the classic family musical, Annie, does not disappoint.
The heartwarming show, directed by Nikolai Foster, may not have the big budget of a West End production but the opening night set a high standard with faultless performances throughout and seamless scenery changes.
It tells the tale of Annie’s journey from a New York orphanage to the luxurious home of Oliver Warbucks and includes well-loved songs It’s A Hard Knock Life, sung by the enthusiastic orphans, and Tomorrow.
Set in the Depression of the early 1930s, some of the economic problems referred to in the story chime with the current era of austerity and at times sent a ripple of recognition through the audience.
Sophie Downham, who will share the lead role with Phoebe Roberts, played Annie with understated confidence – a refreshing change from the exaggerated performances the role can attract.
Other outstanding performances included comedy turns by Sarah Ingram as Miss Hannigan, Darren Bennett as Rooster, and Emma Barton as Lily. There were solid performances by Duncan Preston, formerly of Acorn Antiques, as Oliver Warbucks, and former Emmerdale actress Verity Rushworth as Grace Ferrell. Alfie Hanson as Sandy the dog was faultless and received a huge cheer from the audience for responding to his new name when called by Annie.
To January 15.