Review: Top Hat, Sunderland Empire, until July 4

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show that has been more of a complete package. Stunning costumes, unbelievable choreography, great singing and the glamour and glitz of the thirties.

Last night, the Sunderland Empire was transformed to a time when theatre was a truly royal event.

Top Hat

Top Hat

There’s that classic storyline, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl gets him mixed up with their best friend’s husband, and eventually everything is sorted out.

Based on the original film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, it tells the story of Broadway sensation Jerry Travers (Alan Burkitt), who dances his way across Europe to find the girl (Charlotte Gooch) he meets in a hotel.

The Empire is the third-last stop on its almost year-long tour, returning to the region following a successful run at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.

Top Hat is an absolute classic, I loved every second of it. The comedy was great, but the audience seemed not to get many of the jokes until later in the show, I think this was because they didn’t warm to the characters until about the mid-way point in the first half.

The choreography, oh my goodness, it was amazing. I have no idea how they managed to sing, dance and keep a smile on their face at the same time.

Also the music, the lush orchestrations were stunning. They were true to the original score and the choreography worked in time with the songs for added enjoyment.

I think it’s hard to pick out an lead performer. Obviously Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch were completely stunning in their roles and were quite rightly placed as the lead duo. Burkitt has a stunning voice and is an extraordinary dancer. He also trained at Performers College, the same place as Alnwick’s Dan Hope, who currently stars in Wicked on the West End.

Not only that, the leads are propped up by a youthful chorus of tap-dancing marvels. Not a single member was out of time and I have no idea how they could dance almost constantly for the whole two hours of the show.

For me, there were only two things that played on my mind as I drove home – luckily, nothing to do with the brilliant actors and musicians.

Firstly, the set. Now this set works for a number of reasons. It is compact and works well as a travelling set. But, I completely disliked the fact the front part of the stage kept opening and closing every five to 10 minutes. I found it very distracting and on several occasions you could hear the crew moving the set in the background.

The other was how many people were on their mobile phones during the performance. I was astonished at how many people had come to see the show, just to sit and check on their mobile phones. I’m 21 years old, I’m on my phone 24/7, but isn’t the whole point of going to the theatre to give you a break from it? An announcer at the beginning reminded the audience that they were being taken back to the 1930s and mobile phones weren’t invented, but the poor usher was running up and down telling people to be quiet and turn their phones off, which completely distracted me from the show.

Anyway, rant over, this did not falter my view of the show and luckily it is at the venue for another week and a bit.

Top Hat

Top Hat

Top Hat is at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, July 4 and you can you get your tickets at the Sunderland Empire website.