Who Could Ask for Anything More? In it’s golden anniversary year, it says a great deal about a theatre company that chooses to produce a show that it has not done before! But then, the Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS) has always aimed high. This has been the secret of its success over the past 50 years.
Crazy for You opened on Broadway in 1992 and was showered with awards. Since then, it has been performed all over the world, but this is a first for Basingstoke. Believe me, if you miss out on this 50th anniversary show, you will regret it because it is undoubtedly one of their best.
I think I sensed this as soon as the 17-piece orchestra, conducted by Trevor Defferd, opened so magnificently with the overture packed with wonderful Gershwin tunes. You can see the musicians in the orchestra pit at The Anvil, which I always appreciate, and there is something about waiting in anticipation for the curtain to rise that puts everyone in the right mood - old-style theatre it might be, but how well it works!
Then it all exploded onto the stage in front of us and we were treated to a feast of amazing dance routines, fantastic Hollywood-style costumes, great set, strong singing in the chorus and some beautiful solos. Who could possibly ask for anything more?
Of course, it is well cast. Bryn Hughes is absolutely right for the part of Bobby Child. He is just naturally funny, romantic and crazy for Polly Baker, played by Clare Ryan.
Both Bryn and Clare are taking lead roles for BATS for the first time and they give such remarkably polished performances. Their duet Embraceable You is touchingly beautiful, as is Shall We Dance.
There are numerous innovative dance routines and a great deal of energetic tap-dancing. The director and choreographer Martyn Knight is obviously inspired by this show. Admittedly, there are one or two inexperienced dancers and singers in the crowd scenes who are not naturally gifted but there needs to be something to remind us that this is an amateur show!
All the minor roles are well cast. Rob Wilson is such a good actor and singer and he is great as a Hollywood producer, but David Scanlan as a saloon proprietor holds his own too. Janet Lake as Tess, Ceri Deaves as Patsy and Zoe Tame as Irene all give really strong performances, and as for Elizabeth Flaherty as Bobby's mother, why has she been lurking in the chorus all these years?!
I really believe that having experienced BATS people like Tracey Gonzato, David Allard, Stephen Westwood and Richard Bond - all of whom have taken lead roles in the past - being prepared to be in the chorus is one of the strengths of this show and it has really worked.
I was genuinely surprised at how well they managed the unsophisticated humour - no cynicism here - just sweet, innocent, good fun, and the audience loved it. The finale is pure, unadulterated Hollywood razzmatazz and there was a roar of approval from the first-night crowd.