Tag Archives: Calamity Jane

REVIEW: Calamity Jane – Motherwell Theatre

The Deadwood stage has galloped into Motherwell courtesy of Our Lady’s Musical Society. Using the real-life adventures of Wild West frontierswoman Martha Jane Cannary as its inspiration, the musical of Calamity Jane is based on the much-loved 1953 Doris Day movie.

With a quite frankly preposterous plot, that at times is unfathomable: saloon owner Henry Miller is under the impression he’s hired famous actress Frances Fryer to perform, but when very male Francis arrives, Calamity rides out to bring backstage sweetheart Adelaide Adams to save the day (why it’s not the elusive Frances Fryer, I don’t know) thus ensues yet another case of mistaken identity that does nothing to help Calamity’s disastrous reputation. Throw into the mix some unrequited love and there you have it.

This is a musical choc full of familiar tunes, so familiar the audience sing along to the overture, however, they are delivered with mixed success. The big ensemble show-stoppers are the winners of the evening – The Black Hills of Dakota is particularly fine. A lack of crisp diction and tuning issues (and at times wandering off score, especially in a peculiar Secret Love) rendered many of Calamity’s best-known tunes almost unrecognisable. There’s also a fine line to tread when playing this part, whilst Calamity is as tough as they come, there’s also a vulnerability to her, which here, was completely trampled over in the gruff characterisation.

The issue of diction was prevalent throughout, not helped by under-amplification – many of the dialogue sequences were very garbled, particularly Calamity’s (Shiranne Burns). This year Christopher Morris, arguably the most talented company member, is the object of Calamity’s desire Lt. Danny Gilmartin, and only gets to showcase his wonderful voice in Love You Dearly. Along with Morris, it is Ray O’Sullivan’s Wild Bill Hickok that shines, his fabulously toned voice is perfectly suited to the era when this piece was created.

There’s still enough here to entertain, but with such iconic and well-loved material you have to tread carefully and deliver the highest quality. An admirable attempt but not without its faults.

REVIEW: Calamity Jane – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

The strangest fact about the stage musical of Calamity Jane is that is has never been staged in either the West End or Broadway despite numerous sell-out tours of both the US And UK.

Calamity Jane - Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane & Tom Lister as Wild  Bill Hickok. Photo credit Manuel Harlan (2)

Loosely based on tales from the life of Martha Jane Cannary, Calamity Jane is the equal of any man in the Wild West. Friend and Golden Gate saloon owner Henry Miller is under the impression that he’s hired famous actress Frances Fryer to perform, but when the very male Francis arrives, Calamity steps in to save the day, vowing to head from Deadwood to Chicago to bring back the darling of the age, stage sweetheart Adelaid Adams. But, as it ever was in musical theatre, things don’t go quite to plan, there’s mistaken identity, a love triangle thrown into the mix, and musical mayhem ensues.

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Packed with a plethora of familiar tunes: ‘The Deadwood Stage’, ‘Windy City’, ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’ (much-loved by this Glasgow audience who sang out full voice when the first few notes rang out from the stage) and of course, Oscar-winner ‘Secret Love’, this is a good old-fashioned crowd-pleaser.

For all its fun and hi-jinks, underneath lies a very romantic and lyrically witty score which the cast do justice to. As is becoming their trademark, this Watermill Theatre production features a cast of actor/musicians and though personally not a fan, the device works well here and there’s no end to the places that musical instruments are produced from.

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The cast are ably led by I’d Do Anything winner and audience darling Jodie Prenger as Calamity andEmmerdale‘s Tom Lister as Wild Bill Hickok. Prenger wins over the audience before a word is uttered, her entrance greeted by a round of whoops and hollers, and whilst in possession of a roof-raising voice and well-honed comedic skills, it is Lister who captures the heart, he has a truly beautiful voice, the only complaint being that you don’t get to hear enough of it. However, one note of criticism which can’t go unmentioned is the poor diction/accents of some of the cast members who rendered the narrative unintelligible for whole swathes of the first act. That said it improved as the show progressed.

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The static set doubles, triples and quadruples as every location in the show: pianos and chairs become a stagecoach, a door and some barrels become tables and it is richly lit and nicely dressed to give both a sense of time and place.

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The first act seems disjointed and though long, doesn’t seem to cover much ground, the second and much more enjoyable act on the other hand, drives along at whip-cracking pace, bringing the romp to its happy conclusion. The production is suffused throughout with infectious energy and it is this, along with the cracking tunes that sends you back onto the street with a smile on your face. The popularity of this enduring classic shows no sign of abating. Get your cowboy hat on and get along to the King’s to see it while you can.

Runs until Sat 20 June 2015

This review was originally written for and published by http://www.thepublicreviews.com at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/calamity-jane-kings-theatre-glasgow/