The Music Man review, Nov 2008 - Basingstoke Observer

76 Blasts from the Past! Those 76 trombones were still with me a week after I'd seen the show. Basingstoke's own musical group, BATS, are staging a rip-roaring performance of The Music Man at the Haymarket - and you still have a chance to see it before Saturday (November 22).

It's an exhilaratingly corny show set in the American hick town of River City where the amiable Professor Harold Hill promises to set up a local town band by providing all the musical instruments and costumes - at a price, of course. Hill then plans to disappear with the money. But a surprising falling in love with Marion the Librarian scuppers his plans and his scam is revealed to the townsfolk.

Meredith Wilson's big brassy music keeps the silly plot nicely bubbling along. In the big ensemble routines the stage is packed with beautifully costumed dancers and singers who 'show off BATS' great musical strengths. But when the music stops, when some of the minor characters' switch to acting mode, BATS' weakness is revealed.

Singing and acting with great charm ana flirtatious style is Martin Webb playing conman Harold Hill. His big voice impressively covers both the gentle love songs and the tongue-twisting patter songs.

As his romantic foil, Kirsty Kingham sings Marion with great verve and style while Ian 'Spud' Smith brings some very camp comedy to the ' role of his reluctant accomplice. More laughs come from the young Nick Brannam with a crazy voice and even crazier footwork, although he would be much more effective if he wasn't quite SO over the top - Clare Ryan features as his dancing and singing partner.

Among the brilliant younger cast, the night I saw the show, James Compton was the ultra shy Winthrop, taking centre stage with a song all to himself, with A1yssia Kershaw as his bossy-boots mate Amaryllis. And miraculously, all the kids manage to avoid being nauseatingly cute. Director Ray Jeffery filled the stage with real characters. The Music Man is a musical delight.

Graham Bye

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