It’s Just Loverly! A lively, colourful and melodious spectacle is in store for Basingstoke audiences - one that will transport them back to the big smoke of 1912. The hustle and bustle of Covent Garden is vividly brought to life in the opening sequences of My Fair Lady, presented by Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS), which is running at The Haymarket until a week on Saturday.
The large cast mingles, chatters and dances to get the audience in the mood until Professor Henry Higgins' opening song Why Can't The English? sets the dramatic ball rolling… BATS veteran Jim Welling is perfectly cast as Higgins - a role he has played for the society before - delivering his songs almost like speech and not for a minute sparing the feelings of his new pupil Eliza Doolittle, the "object" of his bet with Colonel Pickering.
Will he transform the Cockney flower girl into an upper' class lady in time for the Embassy Ball? Clare Ryan as Eliza brings pizzazz to the role - first as an exaggerated, screeching Cockney; then as a refined lady rolling her Rs - and she particularly shines in Show Me and Without You.
Anthony Mitchell, as the blathering Colonel Pickering, and Len Annakin, as the idle, drunken' Alfred Doolittle, are both fantastically cast, and Bryn Hughes is a suitably guffawing Freddy Eynsford-Hill.
The supporting cast bring energy to the show and there are some lovely ensemble dance sequences, supported throughout by musical director Neil Streeter and his musicians. The set is simple, with most of the action in Higgins' study - complete with bookshelves, chaise longue, chair, desk .and phonographs - and a few prop and backdrop changes transform the scene for Wimpole Street, the vibrant flower market, Ascot and Mrs Higgins' conservatory.
Countless costumes add another dimension to the production, which director and choreographer Ray Jeffery makes the most of.
Elegant ladies dressed in red, yellow and blue during On The Street Where You Live, black and white outfits at Ascot and the layered skirts, waist coats, hats and feathers of the street traders give the eye something to feast on.
From a wardrobe point of view, a money-saving decision to cut the Embassy Ball scene at the end of act one, which may cause momentary confusion, is totally understandable. This "loverly" production is BATS' only show in 2009, and theatre-goers in Basingstoke should proudly support their home-grown talent.