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BATS - Hello Dolly

The Haymarket, 14th to 23rd November 2002.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Great entertainment

'HELLO, DOLLY', performed by Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS), at The Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, from Thursday, November 14 to Saturday, November 23

Well, BATS did it again. There is so much talent in this society, and their standards are so high that you would be forgiven for thinking that this wasn't an amateur company. I quickly forgot they weren't professional, until one young man in the chorus stuck his tongue out at someone in the audience. Big mistake.

Apart from that, it was a stunning show, and the capacity audience at the Haymarket clearly loved it. From the start, the stage belonged to Kate Webb, who was perfect as Dolly. She smiled and radiated a joie-de-vivre which was so engaging, despite being, fundamentally, a busybody. The man she had in her sights, one Horace Vandergelder, was a seemingly unlikely candidate - grumpy and mean to his employees. Jim Welling was great in the role, capturing the thoroughly miserable personality and being transformed by Dolly's charm (and devious persistence).

Cornelius and Barnaby, the two employees who award themselves what turns out to be a thrilling day off in New York, were brilliantly played, danced and sung by David Allard and Bryn Hughes. Such energy, and such wide-eyed wonder as they had their first loving encounters with the fairer sex. Libby Ruskell was a sweet but feisty Minnie, and Theresa Lunn was delightful as Irene Molloy, not least as she sang 'Ribbons down my back', and later in the beautiful duet with Cornelius, 'It only takes a moment'.

However it is not enough to have strong principals, as these definitely were, and the chorus was great, weaving with pace and style across the stage in an endless pageant of stunning costumes. 'The Waiters' Galop' was hilarious, and technically impressive. There were so many directorial inventions which would have challenged a lesser company, but Ray Jeffery regularly makes great demands on them and they respond superbly. Trevor Defferd's sensitive musical direction meant that the band complemented the action and the excellent singing perfectly throughout. We had one of the best nights I can remember in the theatre.