A Warm Hello for Dolly Opening night of the Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society's (BATS) autumn production proved that there is indeed strength in numbers.
Whatever small part of Basingstoke that was not in the audience was onstage, parading (quite literally) across in successive waves of change after change of costume, set, song and dance. Such a performance embodies the overwhelming spirit of amateur dramatics - to involve anyone keen enough to endure the months of inconvenient evening and weekend rehearsals while simultaneously juggling career, school and family.
This catholic approach is one that BATS uses to its advantage. The grand chorus numbers like It Takes a Woman and Hello, Dolly! were the relative peaks of the evening, as the entire cast united to belt out Jerry Herman's original music.
Likewise, the choreography was at its best when row upon row of actors and dancers weaved in and out of one another. The interminable parade scene and the waiters' gallop were cleverly arranged. The various sets were all impressive and the costumes were radiant.
The leads - Kate Webb (as Dolly herself), Jim Welling (Horace Vandergelder), David Allard (Cornelius), Bryn Hughes (Barnaby), Theresa Lunn (Mrs Molloy) and Libby Ruskell (Minnie Fay) - all clearly enjoyed their roles. Hughes and Allard, whose singing was skillful, tended to express their excitement by leaping in the air and scampering about; Ruskell relished her chances to scream. The American accents were unlike anything I've ever heard before. Theresa Lunn's rendition of Ribbons Down My Back was the show's most polished moment. She had an air of Julie Andrews' captivating wholesomeness about her. Why she isn't performing a similar role in the West End or elsewhere, I cannot say.
By dint of the sweeping range of costume, the unwieldy bulk of the cast or the hyperactive enthusiasm, the show occasionally threatened to give at the knees and collapse into a giddy, breathless, brightly-coloured mass of self-parody. But if Hello, Dolly! brings a smile to your lips - even a slightly ironical one then BATS has done what it set out to do. I thought the ticket price was a bit steep for such a peculiar form of pleasure.
Eric J lannelli