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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

BATS - Mack and Mabel

12th to 22nd November 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Sizzling on till Saturday

Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society: Mack and Mabel, at The Haymarket, Basingstoke, from Wednesday, November 12 to Saturday, November 22

From the moment the superb orchestra struck up the overture, accompanied by silent movie footage, we knew we were in for a wonderful evening's entertainment with Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical's latest production of Mack and Mabel.

The show was packed with sizzling musical numbers, bathing beauties, Keystone Kops and slapstick, all evoking the magical era of Hollywood's golden age of silent movies. The script, for me, was thin and the scenes fragmented, but we were in for a musical feast, so never mind the plot.

Director and choreographer Ray Jeffery had a vast array of talent to draw on and the hallmark of this production was the stunning chorus work.

From intricate and complicated well-rehearsed silent movie sequences, to big, big musical numbers, it was all handled breathtakingly, with every member of the cast sparkling and interacting (other societies please take note).

With good characterisations, artistic groupings, flawless continuity, and a real sense of the period, it was a credit to him and his company

Full marks to Libby Ruskell as Mabel, who gave a delightful portrayal of the doomed sandwich-girl-turned-silent movie actress. She was vibrant, although her voice not always quite equal to the vocal expectations of the part.

Martin Webb's relaxed and confident performance as Mack provided a perfect foil, not just for Mabel, but for a show which relies on this central character for its energy and continuity, although again, he lacked the 'big' voice associated with the role.

Sally Towle as Lottie Ames made an impressive debut with BATS with bags of energy and talent and a great lead for the super tap number Tap Your Troubles Away (choreographed by Liz Ilett). Gary J. Myers was outstanding as Fatty Arbuckle, providing many hilarious visual gags and Bryn Hughes as Frank and Di Annakin as Ella (among others) providing especially strong support performances.

The basically open set with attractive trucks and drops served to make the action slick and the costumes were colourful and perfectly depicted changing fashions as the years passed. There was some distortion from the radio mikes, though sound was all in all good and lighting was refreshingly bright with good effects.

Musical director Trevor Defferd had gathered a first-class set of musicians for his orchestra and the extra music he had arranged to accompany some of the sequences added a classy touch.

There's still time to catch this great entertainment, which continues until Saturday.