THEATRE / Top of the Town - King's Head, London N1

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The Independent Culture
Stop me if you've heard this: Harry Stein, half-man, half- shark and down on his luck, is putting on a new revue - 'Top of the Town' - in a seedy theatre only three minutes off Broadway as the crow flies (if it's a jet-propelled crow). But the cast want to be paid, and Harry needs dough; his only source of funds is Louis 'Lapels' Latsky, a dealer in fish with a sideline in cement swimming-trunks for anybody who says anything different. Louis won't cough up until he sees some big stars - preferably Laura Loveday. Sadly, Laura is Harry's ex-wife, and she can't stand the sight of him. Meanwhile, Shirley Knott, the pretty, innocent young chorus girl, is in love with Stanley, the cheery stage manager with a voice like Perry Como; and Loretta, the sassy, wisecracking older girl, is worrying about being left on the shelf.

Roy Smiles's beautifully pastiched script assembles more cliches on one stage than you'd have thought possible. It survives through sheer pace, and through a well-sustained piece of doublethink, balancing between knowingness and abject surrender to the genre. The play is punctuated by songs - standards like 'Try a Little Tenderness', 'Laura', 'Nice Work If You Can Get It' and a couple of Nat 'King' Cole numbers - all telegraphed by outrageously contrived cues. The piano needs tuning, and most of the cast don't sound as if their voices could survive a larger space; but that's the only flaw in an extremely funny evening.

Box office: 071-226 1916.