Top Hat brings Hollywood Glamour to the Wolverhampton Grand

The glamour and elegance of the Hollywood musical came to the Wolverhampton Grand last night, for the opening of the award-winning musical delight that is Top Hat. The classic songs of Irving Berlin and the sheer romance and screwball comedy of the show had the audience totally enthralled from start to finish, with the spirit of Fred and Ginger most definitely lingering in the air.

TOP HAT BANNER (W'TON GRAND) FRAMED

Top Hat is one of the most beloved musicals of the 1930s, it was certainly the crowing moment of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers partnership. It is one of the strange paradoxes of the 1930s that whilst the world was going through the great depression, with many living in poverty and hardship, the movies got bigger, more extravagant and filled with evermore glamour, glitz and glitter. Escapism was the key, and you can’t get any more escapist than Top Hat.

TOP HAT THE MUSICAL DRESS REHEARSALThe story is the classic tale of mistaken identity that thwarts a promising romance. Broadway star Jerry Travers arrives in London for a triumphant West End debut. Whilst staying at a stunning Art Deco hotel (surely The Savoy, complete with the most amazing Art Deco sets) he meets the beautiful Dale Tremont, a woman who seems immune to his immense charm. Jerry wins her over, during a dreamily romantic sequence in the rain, but then loses her again when she mistakenly believes him to be a married man. Jerry then make a trip to Venice to get the girl of his dreams. All sorts of madcap adventures ensue before the inevitable happy ending.

TOP HAT THE MUSICAL DRESS REHEARSALIn the role of Jerry, Alan Burkitt is absolutely perfect. Showing immense charisma, he makes Jerry immensely likeable, but is also suave and sophisticated. His tap dancing is admirable, you cannot help but compare him to Fred in the same role, but Alan Birkett compares favourably – he is lithe, energetic and supremely elegant, a perfect leading man.

The Ginger Rogers role is played by Charlotte Gooch and she is simply stunning. A gorgeous presence, Charlotte has the acid wit of Dale down to a tee, and can yet be vulnerable too, particularly during the beautiful ‘Better luck next time’. Her statuesque physique makes her more than a match for Jerry, and she is grace personified in the exquisite costumes that she wears throughout, particularly the famous white feathers of ‘cheek to cheek’.

tophat-SliderThe supporting cast is equally wonderful. Clive Hayward, as Horace Hardwick, has many of the best one liners, whilst his wife Madge (played by Rebecca Thornhill) brings to mind the wit and style of Katherine Hepburn. I loved Bates (John Conroy), the faithful valet who is hilarious in a series of different disguises (I won’t spoil the story by revealing why.) Another hilarious turn is Sebastien Torkia as the cartoon Italian designer Alberto Beddini. His mangled English is a joy to behold.

Of course, the story is only a small part of Top Hat. Those classic songs, from ‘Puttin on the Ritz’, ‘Let’s face the music and Dance’, and the exquisite ‘Cheek to Cheek’ all sound as good as ever, a testament to the genius of Irving Berlin. The choreography by Bill Deamer is perfectly balanced, the energetic tap dancing contrasting  superbly with the romance of the American Smooth styles. The sets were truly astounding, the Grand stage was transformed into an Art Deco paradise hotel, and then the Venice Lido. The set changes were seamless, and, apart from a slight hitch when the stage doors failed to open properly, they were also flawless. And the costumes were exquisite, Jon Morrell harnessing all that was stunning about 1930s style, creating incredible look after incredible look (oh for an hour in Dale’s wardrobe.)

Top Hat is a night of glamour, romance and sheer escapism. Don’t miss it.

Top Hat is at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 1st November, click here for ticket information.

Clothes Show Live – shopping,celebs…and more shopping!

I had my first experience of the Clothes Show Live last week, and I have to say I was quite impressed! Held each December in Birmingham’s LG Arena, the show attracts a mainly female audience who are attracted by the prospect of major shopping bargains from top brands and cult labels, beauty bargains to die for, and cute celebrity men..both models and mere mortals. They were not to be disappointed on any count.

In terms of shopping, there are beauty bargains galore. From Illamasqua selling their fantastic mascaras two for five pounds (yes I did say £5!),great goodie bags from Jelly Pong Pong, Bourjois and Rimmel for less than £10, and online exclusive products like Helene B and Kimberly Wyatt’s new mineral range BM beauty, cosmetic aficionados were truly spoilt for choice. My arms were literally filled with make-up goodie bags, with the amazing packaging of Jelly Pong Pong being a real favourite.

There were also clothing bargains to be found. High Street brand Internationale were selling perfect party wear using a buy one, get one three offer, which could save you pounds, whilst there were real designer bargains from Olivia Rubin and Dahlia, with Dahlia dresses from just £10, and Olivia Rubin styles that have been worn by the likes of Tulisa for less than £50. I also adored the vintage section which was a treasure trove of glorious beaded handbags, fabulous prom dresses and cute and festive Christmas jumpers, all of which were reasonably priced.

As a magpie by nature, I couldn’t resist the Tatty Devine store where I purchased two necklaces for £30, less than a third of the normal retail price. A Mikey stall had a glittering array of bangles for just £10…an incentive if needed to part company with yet more cash.

But the Clothes Show is about much more than shopping. The showpiece fashion show, presented by Grace Woodward and Birmingham’s adopted son George Lamb, was a truly spectacular spectacle. Called ‘A Night at the Department Store’, this was a fashion version of ‘A Night at the Museum’ with the models, aka the store mannequins,coming to life in a magical fashion. Each floor of the department store was represented in the show, and each floor seemed to contain a fair few scantily clad, and rather buff male models, which kept the mainly female audience happy, and quite frankly panting for more.

Floor Six of the Department floor was music, which cleverly tied in with a performance by the extremely tiny, and Gwen Stefani like, ex Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt, with her new band Her Majesty and the Wolves. This was an energetic performance, and meeting Kimberly later I have to say she seems to be a real sweetie!

Kimberly wasn’t the only celebrity around. Arg and Maria from Towie were real crowd pleasers, it was Arg’s birthday and everyone seemed pleased to see him although a security person wicked whispered that he’d been a bit of a naughty boy on the day who kept disappearing!  Jeff Brazier and Lucien Laviscount were also popular.

Of course, the day wasn’t perfect, £8.50 for a cold jacket potato, coleslaw and a bottle of coke was excessive, whilst photo opportunities feel a little bit like cattle markets, but, all in all the LG Arena should be really proud of the Clothes Show Live experience, and I will definitely be penciling in the date for next year.

Lydia Bright – TOWIE’s breakout style star

It is fair to say I have come quite late to the phenomenon that is The Only Way is Essex. But, I am now totally addicted to watching this docu-soap that entails the lives, loves and adventures of a group of Essex 20 somethings. And whilst enjoying the voyeuristic look at life around the Sugarhut, I have also become enamoured with the style and wardrobe of one Essex girl. Step forward Lydia Bright.

Now Lydia isn’t your typical TOWIE girl. Rather than the body con Herve Leger styles, Lydia is a total vintage girl at heart. Her wardrobe is full of full length maxi dresses, pretty boho styles and original vintage finds that she often gets from Fashion Bloodhound, the pre-loved vintage site. Lydia is also a huge fan of the High Street, wearing a host of dresses from Peacocks, Yumi and Reiss. She even famously wore the Reiss Shola dress that Kate Middleton wore to meet the Obamas.

Lydia has a forties siren glamour, with tumbling blonde curls and deep red lips that recall Veronica Lake at her peekaboo height. She is a real style icon in the making and is definitely worth watching.

Here are some highlights from a wardrobe worth raiding.

Pearl Lowe Peacocks dress

Pearl Lowe Oriental Floral Maxi Dress £50.00

wearing vintage style dress from Lavish Alice

Star Print Vintage Green Dress £26.00

 

Get the look

Starstruck Scoop Dress £155.00 

In Miss Selfridge yellow dress

Get the Look

Mustard belted pleat dress Price: £34.00

 

Aldo Hipp heels 

Lola bandage dress £175