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Oklahoma! review, May 2003 - Basingstoke Gazette

Well Slap My Thigh! The gals and fellas of BATS delighted the packed Haymarket Theatre on their opening night of the classic musical Oklahoma!.

Director/choreographer Martyn Knight and an enthusiastic cast gave an energetic, funny performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein play in front of a sell-out crowd - by the time the doors opened on Tuesday, every single seat in the six-performance run had been booked.

Oklahoma! is the American dream on stage, with a story of girls in frills, cowboys and romance, where good triumphs over evil to a backdrop of laughter and singing. With its complicated hoedowns and well-known songs, the musical should not be performed by the fainthearted, but BATS' production was entertaining and professionally executed.

A glimmer of first-night nerves was evident in the exaggerated yee-haw accents at the start of the performance, but a few minutes in, the cast were more intelligible and the enjoyment began.

Both Rob Wilson, who played broad-shouldered cowboy hero Curly in his first lead musical role, and Theresa Lunn, as blonde beauty Laurey, have excellent voices and were well suited to their parts as the golden couple who- eventually admit their love for each other and live happily ever after.

Villain Jud Fry (Ian Smith) was wonderfully creepy; while Colin Flaherty's Ali Hakim and Tracey Gorizato's squeaky Ado Annie - think Frenchie from Grease - kept the laughs coming with their flirtatious banter.

And, just to make sure the un-girlie women in the audience weren't put off by all the giggling and pirouettes, Vanessa Deer reset the gender balance with her warm, strong Aunt Eller.

BATS' performances have been steadily improving over the past few seasons, and if the reaction to Tuesday's show was anything to go by, anyone who wants to get a seat for the November performance had better book now!

Charis Mastris