Top Hat cast recreate scenes from Sunderland Empire show at Seaham Hall

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The cast of Top Hat took a twirl to Seaham Hall to recreate scenes from the hit musical.

Leading stars Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch put on the Ritz in style with an afternoon tea served by John Conroy, who plays Bates the butler in the show, which is running at Sunderland Empire until July 4.

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Alan who plays Jerry Travers, a role made famous by Fred Astaire in the film of the same name, said: “It’s a lovely theatre here. I came to see White Christmas here and it’s great to be on the stage this time, instead of sat in the audience.”

Speaking about the award-winning musical’s popularity, he said: “People expect a classic Hollywood musical, but it’s so beautiful and funny, it has something for everyone. It’s just grown and grown.”

John Conroy plays the role of Bates, a role he’s very familiar with having butlered professionally on and off for 40 years, for royalty and dignitaries, the most famous being the Duke of Kent, Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock.

“I worked as a butler part-time and it’s a skill that’s come in very useful,” he said. “I worked for banks and financial institutions in the city of London, as they were the only people who could afford such a service.

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch with John Conroy (left) from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch with John Conroy (left) from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

“Margaret Thatcher was invited to a Burns’ Night evening. Although my politics are different, she was gracious and kind. The Duke of Kent was there too, and everyone was in a celebratory mood.”

John says discretion is key to being a butler: “We would sign a secrecy document so we wouldn’t discuss anything we had overheard. It’s a discreet form of service, you waft in and out of rooms and attend to people’s needs in a quiet way. The key is to not be too overly bombastic and to sense the atmosphere of the room.”

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch with John Conroy (left) from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

SONG AND DANCE: Cast members Alan Burkitt and Charlotte Gooch with John Conroy (left) from the stage musical Top Hat stop off for afternoon tea at Seaham Hall ahead of their performance at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD