Singin' in the Rain Review, May 2018 - Basingstoke Gazette

How wonderful that BATS will open the celebrations for their 60th year with such an effervescent zinger of a show! 

Don on lampost.jpg

They’ve been very wise with their choice of production as Singin’ In The Rain has it all – wit, warmth and wonderful songs – and the talented members of the society make the most of its every moment. Their production wholly captures the spirit of the original 1952 film about the move from silent films to talking pictures in 1920s Hollywood.

There is so much to appreciate: the skill displayed by the principals; the glorious dance numbers, including some irresistible tap sequences; the incredible 'wet set' complete with rain; the clever use of filmed inserts; the many laughs (which often come courtesy of the accomplished and industrious supporting cast); and the myriad costume changes.

Bryn Hughes boasts a megawatt smile and phenomenal footwork as he brings matinee idol Don Lockwood to life whilst a brilliant Kirsty Bennett channels Miss Piggy and Betty Boop as his unfortunately voiced co-star Lina Lamont. 

Anneka Wass (Kathy Selden) and William Keel-Stocker (Cosmo Brown) are making their BATS debuts and are both fantastic, utterly nailing their characters. There’s also lovely fizzy chemistry between the leading romantic pair, the key trio and best buddies Don and Cosmo, helping to fully ignite numbers such as the sublime Fit As A Fiddle and Good Mornin’.

A special mention must go to the ever-impressive Ian Moseley, who delivers both Beautiful Girl and a standout comic turn as the hapless Male Diction Coach in Moses Supposes

It must have been incredibly hard work for director Ray Jeffery, assistant director Nick Brannam, musical director Trevor Defferd and choreographers Julie Morris and Karen McCloy to put it all together, but it has absolutely been worth it. 

This winning show whets the appetite for what’s ahead in this landmark year (an Anvil concert on June 23 and Priscilla Queen of the Desert in November).

Congratulations BATS and thank you for your key contribution to the artistic life of the town. May the best be yet to come.

Joanne Mace

Footloose Review, November 2017 - Newbury Weekly News

BATS’ best feet forward: Full-throttle musical with breath-taking choreography

The stage spin-off of the 1984 teen movie Footloose demands an exuberant, high-energy performance from start to finish and BATS’ hugely talented cast certainly obliged on all fronts.  This was BATS full-throttle with bells on.  Strong principals and a rock-solid ensemble ensured we were in for a treat.

Luke Sayers delivered in every respect in the large role of Ren, the snake-hipped Chicago boy exiled to small-town Bomont where booze, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll are banned.  All Bomont boogie-woogie had been illegal since four kids died in a car crash on their way back from a dance.

Rhiannon Mone excelled, depicting the feisty and rebellious Ariel, daughter of the Reverend Shaw Moore, where in this role, Stephen Westwood was in fine voice.

The three ‘commentators’ Rusy (Jade Hollingshead), Arleen (Lusannsa Goodman) and Wendy Jo (Holly Reedman) absolutely nailed it, with brilliant harmonies and dance, Hollingshead giving a particularly stand-out performance.

Liam Brelsforth was terrific in his character of Willard, bringing out the humour of the character and Craig Saunders delivered strongly as bad boy Chuck Cranston.  Sally Manning sang beautifully as Vi Moore, and her duet with Ren’s mother, played by Liz Scorey, was a delightful, poignant moment.

Director and choreographer Martyn Knight is to be truly congratulated on his direction and breath-taking choreography.  It was incredibly delivered with a slickness that must have taken much rehearsal.  I did not see a single foot put wrong, even on the first night.

Lighting was stunning and the band, under musical director, Julie Dance, offered tight and crisp accompaniment, if a little on the minimal side.  Sometimes the voices in the large musical numbers overpowered them.  Having said that, the production was full-throttle, there were a few numbers where I felt they could have taken their foot off the gas to provide a little variation and a sweeter sound – when you start so big you’ve nowhere to go.

But to capt it off, the Everybody Cut Loose closing montage was infectious, irresistible fun – a stellar, foot-stamping send-off to another superb BATS production.

Trevor Dobson

Footloose Review, November 2017 - Basingstoke Gazette

There is nothing quite like live theatre; you can see the film or watch television but the exuberance and enthusiasm of a young company performing live on stage is for me irresistible.

Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society has been delivering amazing musical productions for close on 60 years; it is their sixtieth anniversary next year and still the talented youngsters keep coming who are then supported in all departments by the more experienced BATS members. It is a magic formula which Basingstoke is rightly proud.

The story of Footloose revolves around the family of the Rev Shaw Moore played convincingly by Stephen Westwood, an experienced BATS actor with a good singing voice. Saddened by the death of his son and three friends, five years previously he manages to persuade the council to ban all dancing. His wife played by Sally Manning and daughter Ariel, Rhiannon Mone plead with him. Both parts require beautiful singing voices and Sally and Rhiannon are gloriously blessed.

This energetic production is directed and choreographed by Martyn Knight with Gary J. Myers as Assistant to the Director and there are many special moments to appreciate.   Still Rockin' with Cowboy Bob (BenWaines) and company was sheer joy because the performers themselves were obviously having such fun. The professional orchestra directed by Jules Dance were able to show their undoubted skills here but they were also able to tone everything right down for the outstandingly beautiful duet between (Sally Manning) and Ethel (Liz Scorey). 

Luke Sayers playing the 'bad boy' has a rich baritone voice and his performance of Dancing is not a Crime was a triumph. There were so many good voices on that stage and Rhiannon Mone and Luke Sayers duetting with Almost Paradise was so delightfully romantic. 

Jade Hollingshead as Rusty led an enthusiastic ensemble of dancers (they had three dance captains) and singers that will make you wish you could get up on stage and dance with them!

Hannah Williams

Footloose Review, November 2017 - What the Redhead Said

Last night a friend and I went to Haymarket in Basingstoke to see the Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS) production of Footloose. I love going to Haymarket to see shows. It’s nicely situated in Basingstoke town centre so easily accessible and great for making the show into a whole day or evening occasion with a meal or drinks beforehand.

I love the Footloose story and I am a huge fan of the original movie so I couldn’t wait to see how it translated to the stage. The show did have a couple of technical hitches early on – slight sound and mic issues – but the cast moved on from that swiftly and didn’t let it affect their performance. Also, we went to see the show on its opening night, which has a reduced ticket price, and where you typically expect slight hiccups.

The story is based in America and the cast all had to talk and sing with American accents. This seemed to take the some of the cast a couple of scenes to get into but by the end of the first half they all looked like they were really enjoying themselves and were so in character. The show followed the Footloose story perfectly and within a few scenes we had got to know the characters, really felt for them and were singing along with them too.

Footloose is, overall, such an uplifting and inspiring story with such friendship, team spirit and a real never give up vibe to it. The cast really brought that to life on stage and although it was put together and performed by the Basingstoke ‘Amateur’ Theatrical Society there really was nothing amateur about it. The acting and singing was spot on, the sets were simple but perfect, it was so well put together and we really enjoyed the show

By the end of Footloose the whole audience were dancing in their seats and singing along. There was an encore which was a medley of all the big songs from the show – so many I had forgotten were even in Footloose and it was a fantastic end to a really great show.

I have to give a special mention to Rhiannon Mone who played the leading lady, Ariel. She was fantastic – with a beautiful voice, an unfaltering American accent and played Ariel perfectly. There was nothing amateur about her at all and I’m sure she has a bright future on stage and screen ahead of her.

Footloose runs until 25th November at Haymarket with both evening and matinee performances. It’s a fantastic show and well worth the £23.50 ticket price. If you’re local, definitely go and see it.

Donna, originally published on her blog: what the Redhead said

Spamalot Review, Newbury Weekly News, May 2017

Laughsalot a BATS’ Spamalot

This was the first time that I had seen the musical Spamalot and I was unsure how the typical Monty Python madness would transfer to the stage in such a way. I have enjoyed their Holy Grail film many times and was looking forward to Eric Idle's offering with book and lyrics. 

I was not disappointed.  Director and choreographer Gary J. Myers did a splendid job with a talented cast, capturing the Pythons' unique blend of humour and mixing it well in the well-choreographed musical numbers. 

Colin Flaherty as King Arthur and Pete Chandler as the (almost armless!) Black Knight

Colin Flaherty as King Arthur and Pete Chandler as the (almost armless!) Black Knight

This slick and well-rehearsed musical was complemented by the hard-working MD. Neil Streeter, and his band, who at times probably felt like they were playing until their arms dropped off - although, in fact, it is only the Black Knight who loses his arms in the show. 

There is everything you can imagine in this musical and I am sure that Eric Idle will be very proud to have thrown in every possible cliché, pun, and slick argumentative dialogue between ridiculous characters as humanly possible.  It would be easier to mention what wasn't in the show than to list what is. Nonetheless, we had the delightful and infuriating French taunter Ed Branch and a wonderfully funny I Am Not Dead Yet, led by Stuart Baker as Dead Fred. 

Stuart Baker as Dead Fred

Stuart Baker as Dead Fred

Edward Branch as the French Taunter

Edward Branch as the French Taunter

Nick Brannam (centre) as Prince Herbert with Peter Chandler as Sir Lancelot

Nick Brannam (centre) as Prince Herbert with Peter Chandler as Sir Lancelot

Kirsty Kingham as Lady of the Lake

Kirsty Kingham as Lady of the Lake

The chemistry between a gay Prince Herbert, Nick Brannam, and his strict, brazenly, old-fashioned Yorkshire father; David Izzo, was fantastic.  This, too, was seen between a straight-played King Arthur; Colin Flaherty, and his poor worthless sidekick (or horse) Patsy - Richard Bond - working well in I'm All Alone.  But special mention goes to Kirsty Kingham, playing The Lady of the Lake, an absolute fantastic performance, showing off both comedy and a brilliant singing voice in The Diva's Lament

The show was gifted with energy and vibrancy and was great entertainment, whether a Python fan or not. For those of us who are, we had a great fix of Fish Slapping, Spam and always looking on the bright side of life. 

Well done.

Daniel Maskell

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