For 23 years the tiny town of Boomi has brought together a wealth of talent to produce an acclaimed fundraising musical event, raising spirits well above the strains of dry times.
It is rehearsal day for the Boomi Amateur Thespian Society, affectionately known to all as BATS. Cast and crew are arriving at the Boomi Hall, from all corners of the district including in and around Boomi, Mungindi, Goondiwindi and Moree with some performers making a two-hour round trip twice a week (as well as the odd Sunday) just to be there. Farmers, teachers, shopkeepers, tradesmen, nurses and agronomists have put their day jobs behind them, dipping into the world of theatre for the famed biennial production. There’s laughter, banter and some tall stories. Oscar, the mascot dachshund (who also stars in the musical) laps up the attention as he scurries between his thespian friends. Soon everything is interrupted when the stirring music begins and changes the mood. One of the lead characters, Cinderella, played by Tanya Nicholls, sings Rumour Has It by Adele and the rendition is spine tingling. Tanya has wandered into the hall from the Boomi Co-op that she runs across the road.
Countless hours of rehearsals, costume creation, scriptwriting, backdrop painting and set design and production all culminated in producing six sell-out shows held over three weekends in August and September this year. At every show just over 200 people squeezed into the Boomi Hall with the total proceeds of more than $50,000 going to community groups in the district. With next to no advertising, the shows sold out in record time. Producer and president Claudia Carrigan has been part of BATS since its inception and believes that it is the community ownership that makes it such a fantastic event. “We have fathers, mothers, daughters, friends and neighbours all coming together to be part of the show,” she says. “One year we had nine second generation BATS performers – it has become a tradition for some families!”
The director, Donna Woods, attributes part of the success of their productions to the fact that they write the parts specifically to suit the personality of the cast member. This year, Tinkerbell was played by 73-year old Boomi identity, Dot Marquart, who has also been with BATS for 23 years. “If someone turns up we write a part in – no one
is safe,” laughs Donna. “We also try to focus on topical issues and pretty much stick to the same recipe every year which is fantastic music, corny lines and plenty of funny gags!”
This year’s show, Once Upon A Crime, was written by Claudia’s daughters, Tia and Ashlee Carrigan. The fast-paced musical was a love story, a crime story and fairytale rolled into one. The charming Prince was played by Strath Carrigan who finally found his beloved Cinderella with some raunchy twists and side-splitting antics along the way. The cast performed more than 30 songs and wooed audiences with their first-class vocals. “I love the arts and what it brings to communities,” says Claudia. “BATS has gone on to be about more than raising money – it’s a distraction from tough times, giving us something to look forward to. People from all walks of life come together to
be part of something amazing.”
Words by Kerryn Suttor | Images by Jennifer Street