Friday, 16 March 2018

Calamity Jane, March 14, 2018 ***1/2

Adapted by Ronald Hanmer & Phil Park, from play by Charles K. Freeman, After Warner Bros film written by James O'Hanlon
Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, music by Sammy Fain
At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, until March 25, 2018  (Return season 13-23 Dec 2018) 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts in print on Fri March 16, 2018 & online(date TBC) KH
Tony Taylor, Viriginia Gay, Anthony Gooley

Virginia Gay and a small cast take their audience on a wild ride to the Wild West in this cheerful, unembellished version of Calamity Jane, the musical made famous by Doris Day in the 1950s movie.

Gay portrays Calamity both comically and sympathetically as an awkward, lovelorn gal wrapped uncomfortably inside a tough, bragging, mannish exterior, and her feisty performance, in tandem with a cavalcade of memorable tunes, makes this rollicking entertainment.

In Richard Carroll's intimate, idiosyncratic production, some audience sit on stage at tables in the Golden Garter Saloon, participating in the action; one unwitting man is even cast – very successfully – as Joe, the barman.

Gay engages directly and warmly with her audience, inviting responses, treating us as part of the Deadwood City community, and gaining sympathy and support as she blunders clumsily around the saloon.

The songs by Paul Francis Webster (lyrics) and Sammy Fain (music) include unforgettable musical theatre hits: The Deadwood Stage, Windy City, a lilting, unaccompanied rendition of The Black Hills of Dakota, and the romantic ballad, My Secret Love.

There is no orchestra in this pared down production, just Nigel Ubrihien playing upright piano in the saloon, and cameos by cast on ukulele, guitar, trombone and even a tuba.

The show features some quirky characterisations such as Anthony Gooley’s slightly camp Wild Bill Hickock and Rob Johnson’s nervy musical artiste, Francis Fryer, (who looks weirdly like Judith Lucy when he dons a scruffy wig).

Other characters include Laura Bunting as pretty, aspiring singer, Katie Brown, Christina O'Neill as saloon gal, Susan, Tony Taylor as hapless saloon owner, Henry Miller, and Matthew Pearce as manly Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin.   

While the second act of this diverting production is less cohesive than the first, Calamity Jane is a fun romp that showcases Gay’s charismatic performance.

By Kate Herbert

Presented by Arts Centre Melbourne with One Eyed Man Productions, Neglected Musicals & Hayes Theatre Co

Director Richard Carroll
Musical Director Nigel Ubrihien

Calamity Jane - Virginia Gay
Katie Brown -Laura Bunting
Wild Bill Hickock -Anthony Gooley
Francis Fryer -Rob Johnson
Susan a/ Adelaide - Christina O'Neill
Lt Danny Gilmartin - Matthew Pearce
Henry Miller -Tony Taylor

Choreographer -Cameron Mitchell
Production Designer -Lauren Peters
Lighting Designer -Trent Suidgeest
Wig Designer -Ben Moir

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