They Got Rhythm and Style BATS are justifiably in celebratory mood. For 50 years they have brought musical shows to an enthusiastic public. What better way to celebrate than to open the bubbly and then to produce a veritable firework display to delight and amaze.
Crazy for You is a show to fill the bill: it effervesces, sparkles, dazzles and glitzes. It brought evident joy to a first-night audience without leaving an indelible imprint on the mind or changing one's life. It is perfect, ephemeral entertainment - a legitimate purpose of theatre.
The show is billed as “The New Gershwin Musical", Ken Ludwig's redrafting of an earlier book, Crazy Girl, deemed to be tired and outdated. The “new" show offers a pick-and-mix of well-used theatrical situations which need to be served up with unashamed exuberance and energy.
From the moment the excellent orchestra, directed by Trevor Defferd, struck up the opening bars of the overture it was clear the Gershwins would triumph.
Martyn Knight's stylish direction gave the many impressive dance numbers a fine edge and precision - a huge achievement for this experienced, ambitious amateur company. The zestful performances of the cast were slightly marred by the over-zealous use of microphones (something the sound engineer might strive to temper during the run) and the frequent absence of adequate lighting on the front apron.
The principals were generally strong - especially the talented Clare Ryan (Polly Baker) for whom three numbers in. act one Someone to Watch Over Me, Embraceable You and I Got Rhythm - were beautifully performed and provided some of the high spots of the evening. She was energetically partnered by Bryn Hughes (Bobby Child), who gave his all to the character and to the dancing - which was very slick. His most successful number was Nice Work If You Can Get It, in which he eschewed the rather adenoidal tone of some of his other songs. He greatly came into his own as impersonator of impresario Bela Zangler. Meanwhile the 'real' Bela was played with huge assurance, spirit and wit by Rob Wilson. There was a clever, skillfully-performed 'reflection' scene when Bela comes face-to-face with his impersonator, Bobby.
Zoe Tame gave a strong performance as Irene; her number Naughty Baby, was truly outstanding.
The minor principals all gave praiseworthy performances: Elizabeth Flaherty (Lottie Child), Colin Webb (Everett Baker), David Scanlan (Lank Hawkins), Janet Lake (Tess), Steve Jeffery (Eugene Fodor), Tracey Gonzato (Patricia Fodor) and Cari Deaves (Patsy).
Special praise must be given for some excellent close-harmony singing by the cowboy trio - Richard Bond, Stephen Westwood and David Chadwick.
Warmest thanks to BATS for the fifty years of high quality musicals and pantomimes they have given to local audiences. Crazy for You is a wonderful family show and truly deserves full houses to the end of the run at The Anvil, Basingstoke. It plays there until tomorrow (May 17). Don't miss it!