at the Aldwych Theatre
Here's dapper Michael Steel, white carnation in his button hole, to conduct the ante-penultimate West End Top Hat.
The stage is pock-marked by all those steel toes and cane taps, but the show is still band-box fresh, a frivolous confection of feel-good nonsense, immaculately dressed and polished to perfection.
It's based, of course, on the 1935 vehicle for Astaire and Rogers. They're recalled here by Gavin Lee, effortlessly exuding charm, singing, dancing and wise-cracking like the experienced trouper he is, and Kristen Beth Williams, Broadway star extraordinaire. Lee is wonderfully light on his feet, and Williams glides and twirls in her elegant designer gowns [Jon Morrell, a well deserved Olivier winner for these costumes].
Stephen Boswell's gentleman's gentleman, with his elaborate combover and his squeaky shoes, not to mention a wardrobe-full of disguises, steals all his scenes, and there are solid-gold performances from Vivien Parry as Madge [clocking up the full 26 months] with Clive Hayward as her Horace, and Russell Leighton-Dixon as the fashion designer Alberto.
Hildegard Bechtler's art deco setting slides in and out, revealing hotel, park and lido, and the opulent production numbers fill that scarred stage with Cheek to Cheek couples, swirling to the classic melodies of Irving Berlin – choreography by Bill Deamer. The bell-hops and the Venetian ensemble are two unexpected delights.
Matthew White's production makes the most of the gags and the wacky plot; a memorably escapist evening of gold-standard entertainment.