Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Reviewed – 15th December 2017
“Clifton and Lay embody the charm and sophistication of the era.”
In this classic dance musical comedy, we meet Broadway star Jerry Travers and follow him in his attempt to win the affections of socialite Dale Tremont. Ovation presents the London fringe premiere of a musical that has been delighting audiences since the release of the celebrated 1935 film version starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Joshua Lay and Joanne Clifton are a fantastic pairing as Jerry and Dale. The chemistry between the two is undeniable and watching their love story unfold is a delight. The shoes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers were always going to be big ones to fill, but Clifton and Lay do them justice and embody the charm and sophistication of the era.
From the principals to the ensemble, the rest of the cast’s performances are of a high standard. Much of the comedy comes from theatre producer Horace Hardwick (Darren Benedict), his valet, Bates (Samuel Haughton), and fashion designer Alberto Beddini (Matthew James Willis). Ellen Verenieks should also be mentioned for her confident portrayal of Horace’s wife, Madge.
The limited space available is used very effectively, with Upstairs at the Gatehouse making use of traverse staging, as opposed to its usual thrust layout. Some of the action takes place on a raised platform at one end of the stage, which can be seen well from all angles and is a good addition. However, director John Plews does not overuse it and the rest of the stage is covered well, particularly during dance numbers.
The production’s choreography is slick, particularly, and unsurprisingly, the tap dancing. Looking at the space available, you’d be forgiven for wondering how the dancers would be able to pull off big, show stopping numbers, but the staging actually works to their advantage. The audience is treated to an “up-close and personal” experience and can truly appreciate the details in the choreography that is, indeed, show stopping.
Top Hat is a timeless classic and any production following the film and successful West End run has a lot to live up to. This fringe production does not disappoint and is packed full of stunning choreography and classic songs such as “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz”. Charming from start to finish.
Reviewed by Emily K Neal
is at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 28th January 2018