Calamity Jane

WMOS sustain their deserved reputation for putting on classy and energetic shows with this film classic developed for the stage. Liz Petley-Jones has again, but this time literally, directed a sharp-shooting show with a note-perfect band under the swift and talented baton of John Sparrow.

If there was an award to be given under the banner ‘Energetic Firecracker’, then the name of the winner would most certainly be Emma Jane Smith as Calamity, exuding power and energy throughout her time on stage in this coveted role. Iain Steel is more than a match for her, singing his solos with warmth, and point-scoring beautifully with his Katie love rival, Adrian Hickford, a resolute Daniel Gilmartin, during act 2. Katie herself is endearingly played by Kimberley James, coming into her own with ‘Keep it under your hat’.

Andrew Hodgson commands the stage as Henry Miller, his disdain for Simon Meanwell-Ralph’s genially comedic Francis Fryer being particularly well conveyed, while Hamish McDonald cracks the stagecoach whip as Rattlesnake.

Costumes are beautifully authentic, especially for the showgirl scenes, with Annie Tatnall vocally and resplendently elegant as Adelaide Adams, the cigarette card object of men’s affections. The Golden Garter Girls alongside Lucy Hutchings’s winsome Susan, give their all in the can-can, much to the delight of many of the male audience.

The choreography by Chrissy Finn is top-notch throughout: simple yet complex in placings and very well executed by the focussed and disciplined chorus members. ‘Black hills of Dakota’ is of particular note, interweaving the social dancing with a pacey script, and the big set pieces of ‘Windy City’ and ‘Deadwood stage’ are ‘mighty finely’ done.

I liked the staging of ‘Woman’s touch’, using the triangular stairs with various hand-held cleaning implements, which gives this number added zest without intrusion. Sound and lighting are perfect under the control of Tony Lowther and Beki Gregory, ‘Black hills’ being gorgeously lit through pine trees. The staging, under the design of the director and David Freemantle, is very clever throughout. It maximises the space, the aforementioned stairs adding height and interest without imposing the bijou width of the Winchester stage.

No calamity here except in the title!

Future performances: 17-18 November at 7.30, 19 November at 2.30 and 7.30.