Top Hat
The Mill at Sonning
16th Nov to 30th Dec 2022

“Based on the 1935 RKO film of the same name, ‘Top Hat’ tells the story of Broadway sensation Jerry Travers, who dances his way across Europe to win the heart of society girl Dale Tremont.

With an uplifting and witty script, this show celebrates 1930s song, style and romance. Underpinning every scene are Irving Berlin’s magnificent songs including ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, ‘Cheek to Cheek’, ‘Isn’t This a Lovely Day’, and of course, ‘Top Hat, White Tie & Tails’.A masterpiece of musical theatre that brings the glamour of Hollywood’s golden age and the magic of the world famous dance partnership of Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers to the stage, ‘Top Hat’ will get a second Christmas season from 16 November – 30 December, 2022.”
Review by Richard Lambert, 5 Stars
Occasionally you watch a show and realise they’ve got it all right! The Set, costumes, choreography, lighting, sound, casting, you can just sit back and thoroughly enjoy the hard work, talent and skill involved in putting on a huge production such as Top Hat. The Mill at Sonning know how to do a musical and this is it!
Jonny Labey (“Paul Coker” from Eastenders) leads with beautifullly clean tapping. Who would ever have thought from his TV role how much talent is bundled in this cheeky-grinned, pearly-gnashed, chiselled-jaw-line leading man. With chocolatey vocal chords and all the moves, this man out-performs Fred Astaire!
Ashley Nottingham’s brilliant choreography envelopes this cast of 14 who do justice to the piece and make it all feel very dynamically grand and full-on large scale.
The Set is just wonderful. With a central wall-bed that comes and goes, windows that shutter open with various landscapes beyond, an art deco design throughout and patent leather shoes aplenty, there is a genuine 1930’s feel.
The lighting is superb. Pastel colours that blend and embrace, wall sconce fixtures and hidden LED strips throughout to accent the music and give musical contrasts. It felt like looking at the icing of a sponge cake good enough to eat. The star of the show has got to be the follow-spot who was the smoothest top-notch operator you could wish for. Fading in and out seamlessly with the lighting cues while simultaneously following the cast’s entrances and exits. Respect goes to that operator!
The venue is also a bar and restaurant so it really is a complete experience of high class to visit the Mill at Sonning and see TOP HAT.
Photo Credit: Andreas Lambis
Hannah Amin, Joe Boyle, Brendan Cull, George Deller, Nathan Elwick, Gabriela Gregorian, Leah Harris, Billie-Kay, Paul Kemble, Reece Kerridge, Jonny Labey, Greta McKinnon, Julia Nagle, Andy Rees
Creative team: Director Jonathan O’BoyleChoreographer Ashley Nottingham Musical Arrangements & Musical Director Francis GoodhandSet Designer Jason DenvirCostume Designer Natalie Titchener Sound Designer  Chris WhybrowLighting Designer Nic Farman
THE MILL AT SONNINGThere has been a mill at Sonning for many centuries. In the Domesday Book of 1086 three mills at ‘Sonninges and Berrochescire’ are mentioned. In the 1600s the rents for the mill went to the Royal Revenue. During the Civil War when Cromwell had his headquarters in London and King Charles had his in Oxford, the troops met in the middle – Reading. It was Sonning which supplied the flour for the besieged garrison in the town. The site of the earliest Sonning mill could very well have been in a different place. Wooden buildings had a habit of burning down. The current one dates back to the 18th century but the main parts of the present theatre building are from around 1890. It was owned then by the Witherington family who added the top two storeys and the larger waterwheels for more power to drive the machinery. Around 1898 they put in a steam engine to supplement the water power. The Phillimore family took over the mill in 1913 but they still traded under the name of C.H. Witherington and Sons Ltd. They remodelled the inside of the mill the following year. Up until 1950 the mill had its own fleet of barges which brought wheat from London right up to its door. In 1962, when the business was taken over by Associated British Foods Ltd., they remodelled yet again and introduced electric engines although the main source of power was still produced by the wheels. When the mill closed in 1969, it was one of the last flour mills on the Thames driven by wheels. The new port mill at Tilbury had opened and Sonning, being much smaller could not compete economically. Also, one of Sonning’s major customers, Huntley and Palmers, stopped making biscuits in Reading. The mill remained empty until 1977. It was then that Tim and Eileen Richards, who had a great love of theatre, found the derelict building and decided to convert it into The Mill as it is today. Tim invited his brother Frank to join them and the transformation took four years to complete. THE MILL AT SONNING DINNER THEATRE opened on July 22nd 1982. Sadly Frank Richards died in 1994, Tim Richards in 2002 and Eileen Richards in 2015. Her daughter Sally is now Managing Director of The Mill which continues to go from strength to strength thanks to its ever loyal staff and audience, having produced an abundance of plays and musicals. In 1984 The Mill at Sonning was given a conservation award by The Times newspaper and The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors for the design, restoration and conversion of the derelict mill into a dinner theatre. It was named  Most Welcoming Theatre by the Theatre Managers Association for 2016, 2017 and 2018.TOP HATMusic & Lyrics by Irving BerlinBased on RKO’s Motion PictureBook by Matthew White & Howard JacquesThe Mill at Sonning TheatreSonning EyeReading RG4 6TYBox Office: 0118 969 8000www.millatsonning.com16 November – 30 December Press performances:Friday 25 November at 8.15pmSaturday 26 November (matinee) at 2.15pm  (no embargo)Evening shows Tue – SatSat matinees every weekSun matinees from 11 DecemberSun evenings from 11 & 18 DecemberTickets: from £67.50FOR MATINEE PERFORMANCES:Restaurant open and serving lunch from 12.15pm – 2pmPerformance starts 2.15pmFOR EVENING PERFORMANCESRestaurant open and serving dinner from 6.15pm – 8pmPerformance starts 8.15pmSocial mediaFacebook / Twitter / Instagram@MillAtSonningBased on the screenplay by Dwight Taylor & Allan ScottPresented by arrangement with RKO Pictures LLC , Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures Inc. and the Irving Berlin Music Company Originally produced on the West End stage by Kenneth H. Wax Top Hat is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. Mill at Sonning prides itself on offering customers a unique Dinner-Theatre experience. Every ticket at The Mill includes a delicious home-cooked pre-show two-course meal. The riverside restaurant, which overlooks the beautiful river Thames, has recently been refurbished and is now the perfect place to indulge before a show. The first main course is served buffet style before our friendly team of waiters and waitresses help you to your table and take your dessert and drink orders. From the last week of November until Boxing Day we will have a Christmas menu. From Boxing Day onwards we will return to the previous menu.