The only dinner theatre in the UK, seeing a show at The Mill is an entire experience. Tickets cover both a two-course meal and a theatre performance in the intimate 215 seated semi-round venue. This Christmas The Mill at Sonning is showcasing Top Hat the musical, based on the 1935 film of the same name. Top hat brings the glamour of Hollywood and the magic of dance to the stage of The Mill at Sonning.
Top Hat tells the story of Broadway star Jerry Travers who travels to England to join the ranks of the West End. He falls for society girl Dale Tremont, but a case of mistaken identity has him dancing across Europe to win her heart. Dale believes Jerry to be his producer Horace Hardwick who is married to her friend Madge and chaos ensues. I have to say I was a little disappointed in the inevitable reveal of who Jerry really was. I felt it should have been a bigger moment, but as one of my only issues of the night I quickly got over it.
I must admit that prior to seeing the show I had never heard of or seen Top Hat. I was told that the original film starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, so the actors had big shoes to fill. Jack Butterworth and Billie-Kay stepped into the main roles, and both gave spectacular performances with both their vocals and footwork. In fact, the whole cast amazed and impressed me with their amazing dance skills, keeping time through beautiful performances.
The 14-person cast put on a brilliant performance, but I must give a special shoutout to recent graduate Charlie Booker. He had the whole audience in hysterics in his role as dresser and caught my attention during multiple group performances. Brendan Cull, who I saw in Singin’ In The Rain, and Delme Thomas were extremely comical in their roles of Bates and Alberto Beddini. I was also a big fan of Tiffany Graves in the role of Madge Hardwick, so it was a bit of a shame she wasn’t introduced until Act Two.
The Art Deco set, created by Jason Denvir, was stunning and portrayed each location effectively. In the first act some of the scene changes were a little clumpy but it flowed more as the show went on. Following a short interval, the second act continued to get better and better with more incredible songs and dances. If choreographer Ashley Nottingham has some spare time and wants to come teach me to dance, I’d be most grateful. Imagine having the incredible skill of a tap dancer, or in my case any dance skill at all.
Of course, one of the most impressive dance routines was the title number “Top Hat, White Tie & Tails”. And I was surprised to find that I knew a great deal of the songs not realising this is where these classics stem from. Some of the famous and well-known Top Hat songs include Puttin’ On The Ritz and Cheek To Cheek. There are only three musicians listed in the programme for the show and yet I would have guessed there was a full orchestra.
There is literally no end to the talent in the performance both on stage and behind the scenes. It’s a fantastic show that I would highly recommend seeing, and most certainly well worth the trip to Reading. Top Hat will be showing at The Mill At Sonning until 8th January with both matinee and evening performance. And between 23rd November and 29th December the Christmas menu will come into play. Delicious food, a stunning venue and a spectacular performance, what more could you want.
Photo Credit: Andreas Lambis Photography