Newbury Weekly News

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

The Full Monty review, Nov 2016 - Newbury Weekly News

Dazzled by the big reveal! Standing ovation for BATS bravery in taking on The Full Monty.

Wow - it's a while since I have had such a good time at the theatre.  BATS took on the challenge of this gritty, poignant and hilarious show with such aplomb.

Not one for your maiden aunt perhaps, with its fruity dialogue and subject matter (though I could be wrong, judging by the large female contingent in the audience) but with terrific cast and hugely appreciative audience - it was a night to remember.

The men performing the final strip number

The men performing the final strip number

Based on the 1997 British Film, in this musical version of the action is switched to Buffalo, US. It mirrors the film plot, with six out-of-work steelworkers deciding to form a strip act to make some money. As they rehearse for the show, they expose their fears, self-consciousness, and personal back-stories (among other things), but ultimately find strength in their camaraderie.

The actors playing the six main characters - Paul Morris (Jerry Lukowski), John Eddie (Dave Bukatinsky), Richard Bond (Harold Nichols), Ian Moseley (Malcolm MacGregor), Bryn Hughes (Ethan Girard) and Tim Bell (Noah 'Horse' T Simmons) are to be congratulated on their individual portrayals, all of which were simply excellent, and particularly their commitment to the routines, - anything less than 100% and it wouldn't have worked.

The female roles were equally excellent, notably Holly Reedman (Georgie Bukatinsky), Laura Newborough (Pam Lukowski), Kathy May-Miller (Jeanette Burmeister) and the powerhouse that was Sally Manning (Vicki Nichols). There were numerous smaller characters of both genders and a superb ensemble - all maintaining the highest standards.

With great vocals, routines and a tight band all under the expert control of musical director, Julie Dance, fantastic humour, an effective set (with loads of well-handled scene changes), and incredible lighting, it really was one of which director and choreographer, Martyn Knight must be congratulated - together with BATS for taking on the challenge.

The final 'full monty' was cleverly and skilfully handled, with the audience dazzled by the lights as the boys did the actual 'deed', all prompting a thoroughly well-deserved rapturous standing ovation.

This was BATS in tip-top form.

Trevor Dobson



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