Top hat! Return to the golden age of the musical

Forget the recession – moonlight and music and love and romance are back

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers cheered cinematic audiences expecting "trouble ahead" by urging them to "face the music and dance". Fast-forward 75 years and theatres across the country are staging classic musicals to provide escapism during a different era of austerity.

Josef Weinberger, the UK agents for Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company, which owns the rights to musicals by the songwriting duo, and represents musicals by Irving Berlin and others, has seen a "strong uptick" in licences for classic titles, with The Sound of Music its most requested musical.

Directors and producers say that, while the current glut of classics is partly down to the availability of rights, the financial climate is fuelling a market for older musicals. Theatregoers with less money to spend want to play safe by opting for shows they know.

The first stage adaptation of Top Hat premiered in Milton Keynes in August, 76 years after the film. The new production, which features 14 Berlin tunes, including "Let's Face the Music and Dance", as opposed to the film's eight, is touring the UK for 17 weeks, arriving in the West End in April.

The show's producer, Kenny Wax, said there was a "feel-good factor and nostalgia factor that can't be underestimated" during this economic climate. He argued that while it was often said audiences wanted to come out of musicals humming the songs, "now they want to go in humming the tunes".

Top Hat stars Tom Chambers, who won Strictly Come Dancing in 2008, in Astaire's role of Jerry Travers. Jonathan Church, artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre, whose production of Singin' in the Rain opens in the West End in February following a sell-out extended run in Chichester, said TV programmes such as Strictly and Glee had helped bring classic musicals to a younger audience. Glee screened a mash-up of the title song from the 1952 movie – one of many MGM musicals being celebrated at BFI Southbank throughout November and December – with Rihanna's "Umbrella".

Musicals are expensive and risky ventures: Cameron Mackintosh's critically acclaimed Betty Blue Eyes has closed after six months; it played to half-full houses. But many classics do well: Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific became the highest-grossing two-week run at Milton Keynes Theatre when it played to 92 per cent capacity last month.

Opera North, which has had a £1.75m cut to its annual budget, has brought forward its production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel in anticipation of its popularity. General director Richard Mantle said the musical, which opens in Leeds next May, could bring more people to the company.

Leicester's Curve theatre stages 42nd Street from Friday and, in March, revives 1959's Gypsy for the first time in the UK since 1973. Its tour of The King and I – another Rodgers and Hammerstein hit – opens at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre next month.

But Paul Kerryson, Curve's artistic director, warned that the musical art form would "struggle and die" unless there was a "quest for something new".

High notes

Top Hat First stage adaptation of the 1935 film, now touring before West End run.

Crazy for You West End transfer from Regent's Park Open Air Theatre – packed with George and Ira Gershwin songs.

South Pacific Rodgers & Hammerstein hit. Touring, following a Barbican season.

White Christmas Musical based on the 1954 film, getting another festive tour.

Gypsy Leicester Curve's March revival will be first in the UK since 1973.

Carousel Opera North takes Rodgers & Hammerstein to Leeds, Salford and London next year.

Singin' in the Rain Chichester Festival Theatre sell-out hits the West End in February.

The King & I National tour opens at Edinburgh Festival Theatre in December.

The Wizard of Oz Andrew Lloyd Webber West End spectacular based on the 1939 MGM film.

42nd Street Leicester revival opening on Friday, nearly 80 years after the story appeared on the big screen.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor