Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Calamity Jane -Review- Tyne Theatre

Calamity Jane
West End Operatic Society
23 April 2012

Deadwood City 1876.
Calamity Jane the tomboyish gun slinging peace officer is in a pickle, not just with her hopeful love life, but with the tremendous task of keeping everybody happy in town.
Will she deliver in everything that she hopes?

It was around this time last year when I first reviewed West End Operatic Society. Their portray of the American version of The Full Monty, was superb.
With WEOS performing only one full show per year it is paramount that the company gets it right, and the bums on seats this year will manifest into bums on seats next year.
Getting us off to a great start(with the stage curtains still shut) was the orchestra under Graham West previewing a little taster of the score for the evening. The crowd took this all in and were humming and clapping along.
With curtain open we were transformed to the Wild West, and in particular to the Deadwood Stage with 'The Golden Garter' saloon in spittoon distance. This is where the miners come to be entertained, to be joyous and sink gallons of beer.
Calamity (fantastically played by WEOS veteran Katy Bowler) our heroine, is being pilloried for the tall tales she has been making; with the start of 'Careless with the Truth' both the band and cast come together very well to sparkle and inject some pace into proceedings.
She has a 'dogged' soul though and it comes to the fore when she steps into the limelight to try and save the day. Much to the humour of Wild Bill Hickock (moodily played by Mark Morris), and under the watchful eye of Lieut Danny Gilmartin, Calamity's intended, she helps out the owner of 'The Golden Garter' Henry Miller (David Rawlings), when his top bill act; a beautiful actress named Frances Fryer, turns out to be a boy, Francis (with great singing and dancing from Arron Kidd).
Calamity and the gang step into action with both hips swaying into songs like 'Hive full of honey', 'Men!' and 'I can do without you' and she figures out to save Miller's bacon she will have to bring the pig to him.
The miners heart throb is an entertainer from Chicago called 'Adelaide' (well played by sassy Leanne Harrison), Calamity announces that she will travel there and bring back the starlet to entertain and save the neck of  Miller. 'Windy City' is played with gusto and real energy from the cast, but Calamity is reaffirming her name as she mistakes Adelaide's maid Katie Brown (wonderfully played by Louisa Stobbs-Khaw) for the singer. Not one to give up a chance Katie dupes Calamity into taking her back to Deadwood.
Soon Katie's dreams of starlight and pazzaz are shot down in flames, when she crumbles in front of the eager crowd.
Calamity is about to get lynched when Katie comes clean. Much debate is undertaken with the baying crowd willing to give both of them a second chance. The two girls become friends, with the townsfolk of lusty men becoming even more friendlier. Great songs 'A woman's touch' and 'Higher than a hawk' are played superbly to interject passion and drive into the conclusion.
After much dancing, singing and enjoyment it is clear in Calamity's mind that Danny has become smitten with Katie. When a ball is announced Hickock asks the spruced up Calamity to accompany him, only for jealousy to get the better of her. She finally accepts his offer and it is then and only then that she realises that her one true love is him.
With direction from Katie Howes, Musical Director Graham West and Choreographer Ruth Barber, this was a bright and colourful performance (with great lighting from Nathan Reynard) from the amateur group, with my only criticism being that I found some of the singing to be a tad out of tune, especially from the male section of the cast, maybe this was first night nerves, with the rest of the run to come this will need to be fine balanced.

I really didn't think that cowboy hats and gun tottin' live action was going to be my thing; even though Calamity Jane is a firm favourite with me as a TV film, but I warmed to it, and enjoyed it, as the nearly sell out crown of the Tyne Theatre seemed to have done too.
If  gun slinging, slapping on thighs and cowboy boot spurs is your thing, then may I suggest that you take a seat soon.

Calamity Jane plays until Saturday 28th.

Michael Hunter

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