Loving tribute to the Fred'n'Ginger classic, starring Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen
According to legend, screen hoofer Fred Astaire was such a perfectionist that, during the 40th take of a scene from Swing Time (1936), his partner Ginger Rogers’ feet started to bleed through her satin slippers. In this stage adaptation of one of Fred’n’Ginger’s most popular film outings, Strictly Come Dancing winner and former Holby City star Tom Chambers doesn’t quite put his co-star Summer Strallen through her paces in such a punishing way, but he is sufficiently nimble-footed and pure of voice to suggest that his triumph on the celebrity dance show wasn’t a fluke.
Chambers also proves himself an adept stage clown, incorporating echoes of Groucho Marx and Jerry Lewis into Astaire’s carefree playboy persona, with Strallen revealing perfect comic timing as his foil. And, like their screen forebears, Chambers and Strallen have a lovely chemistry, shown off to captivating effect in the scene in the park where Chambers’ Jerry Travers attempts to woo Strallen’s Dale Tremont to the strains of ‘Isn’t it a Lovely Day’, and again in the famous Venice balcony scene where Strallen dons her feather dress and the pair fall in love while dancing ‘Cheek to Cheek’.
While the mistaken identity plot follows the same trajectory as the 1935 RKO screwball comedy, Matthew White’s production is a kind of ‘greatest hits’ of the Astaire-Rogers films of the 1930s, capturing the milieu of art deco stylings, cocktail bars and polished floors. The incredibly witty script speeds the action along, but it’s the song-and-dance set pieces (to some of Irving Berlin’s greatest songs) that really set the stage alight, including ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ and, of course, ‘Top Hat, White Tie and Tails’.
Top Hat is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Sat 26 November.