Calamity Jane – Tudor Musical Comedy Society ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Calamity Jane – Tudor Musical Comedy 

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall

Monday 24th June 2024 – Dress Rehearsal

By Nigel Gambles

Photography – Studio 55 Photography

My memories of Calamity Jane will be pretty much the same as most peoples, Doris Day in the movie of the same name. So I sat there and waited in anticipation. Saloon singers entered the stage and began with some well know numbers “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain” and “Home on the Range” to set the scene.

Calamity Jane, is rich and tuneful and contains many hits: The Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack Away), The Black Hills of Dakota, Just Blew In From The Windy City, A Woman’s Touch, My Love Is Higher Than A Hawk, and, of course, the Oscar winner, Secret Love. Its a wonderful score and I challenge you not to be singing along and tapping your feet after the first 10 minutes.

Full appreciation must be given to Suzanne Harris whose costumes are clever and present the types to be expected in the concept of America’s Wild West.

Ben Foulds is wry, laconic and incredibly laid back as Wild Bill Hickok. It is a performance of pure joy. He sings superbly throughout but his “My Love Is Higher Than A Hawk” is a genuine highlight and sets Act Two off beautifully. His rapport with Jonathan Blake’s Danny and Paula O’Hare’s Calamity is finely judged and ensures that the humour and the romance gets across. Jonathan is pitch perfect as Danny: the good looking Army man who knows he is good looking and expects the ladies to agree. Smart and smarmy, Jonathan’s Danny is the perfect foil for Wild Bill and the perfect objet of affection for Calamity. Alex Nash is equally perfect as Frances Fryer, and he brings a real sense of mischief, fun and subversiveness to his performance. He is incredibly musical and this shines through everything he does in remarkable and very satisfactory ways. He has a strong, true voice and every moment he is on stage is joyful.

Vanessa Blake is a delight as Katie Brown, the girl who would be a star. Her transition from scared wannabe to accomplished Deadwood diva is skilfully achieved. Her vocals in A Woman’s Touch are absolutely delicious. She has a gorgeous voice and real star appeal.

There is excellent work throughout the show from Maurice Buxton (Rattlesnake), Elizabeth Kirk (Joe), Alex Tuckwell (Hank). All provide colour, texture and interesting character work.

In the title role, Paula is well cast (although surprisingly not a blonde), and gives her all. Calamity is a part for a pretty woman who can successfully convince as a possible man; a true tomboy who can turn Princess. Paula has an easy, broad comic style, and she can punctuate jokes with aplomb, either with a deft double-take or a hard look or a nicely delivered line. Vocally, she is in good form. Her voice is as clear as a bell, especially in the number where she introduces the townsfolk: The Deadwood Stage. Her vocals in her duets with Bill and Katie were great, and those two songs were real treats.

She sings “Just Blew In From The Windy City” with vivacious determination and leads the cast in a great romp of a number which is the true highpoint of the production. Secret Love is not the peak musical moment it could be, but that is not to say Paula does not do it justice. She does.

This is a theatrical treat: a good, old fashioned musical done in a new fangled way. It’s great to hear such good songs so well sung by a cast that are truly enjoying performing. Their shear enthusiasm shines through

The band were very competent under the direction of Andrew Timmins and delivered a rousing score. Full credit to Choreographer Jenny Ashhurst and dance captain Beth Davies who delivered some fabulous dance scenes. Last but not least Director Elliot Beech  whose directorial debut this was and he certainly delivered.

For tickets click the link 👉

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