Michael's on the Ball about BATS
~ Basingstoke Gazette - 21/08/09 ~
BUDDING starlets from Basingstoke made a big impression on a West End star during a trip to London.
BATS Next Gen, the young persons branch of the Basingstoke Amateur Theatrical Society, met musical star Michael Ball when they travelled to see him as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray at London's Shaftesbury Theatre, in preparation for their own upcoming show.
Inspired by the production, the Basingstoke troupe burst into song as they waited to meet cast members at the stage door.
Sandie Thomson, secretary of the society, said: “It got them a chance to talk to the performers when they emerged, and they all remarked on how good the group sounded as they could hear them in their dressing rooms! [Note from JB.N: They really did sound great, we were there on that night. Made the waiting very entertaining indeed!]
“When Michael Ball emerged, he immediately noticed our large group wearing BATS Next Gen T-shirts and exclaimed: ‘You're the lot from Basingstoke!' “He then went on to tell us that one of his earliest jobs was with Basingstoke's Horseshoe Theatre and he has fond memories of that time and of Basingstoke.
“After signing autographs, he then sang with the child-ren and told them he was hoping to come and see their show in October.
“He then moved on through the crowd to meet with other fans and left us in amazement and excitement as he firstly knew who we were and knew when we would be performing Hairspray – plus he could be in the audience!”
Sandie added: “I am sure that those who worked with him when he performed Larkrise to Candleford at what is now The Haymarket theatre will be pleased to learn that he still remembers them.”
Ball, an international star, has released countless records, hosted his own television shows and performed all over the world with the likes of Shirley Bassey and Lesley Garrett.
The BATS Next Gen cast for Hairspray – which will be performed at Queen Mary's College from October 29 to 31 – is made up of 34 children, aged between nine and 18, selected after auditioning 143 hopefuls.
More information about the Basingstoke group can be found at batsnextgen.co.uk.