Calamity Jane

Apr 12 2018 | By More

★★★★☆   Giddy up for a giddy show

Brunton Theatre: Thurs 12 – Sat 14 April 2018
Review by Martin Gray

Oh, the Deadwood stage is a-rolling on over the plains… and stopping at the Brunton Theatre for MAMA’s production of Calamity Jane.

It’s the story of rufty tufty frontierswoman Calam’, who lives in Deadwood City where the good folk are regularly attacked by ‘Injun savages’. She needs to learn how to be a proper girl to find true happiness…

Jenna Lee and the Calamity Jane ensemble. Pic: MAMA

Nope, no one is going to write this show today, and the stage production spun out of the 1951 Doris Day movie while bowdlerising it for modern sensibilities equals whitewashing some rather shameful acts. Calamity Jane is what it is, tin-eared as a piece of history, but so far as musicals go, rather fantastic.

And the good folk of Musselburgh and environs do it justice as a musical with a hugely enjoyable production.

From the opening scene of the Deadwood stage arriving to the closing celebrations, this is pure delight. Jenna Lee makes a terrific Calamity Jane, tomboyish yet vulnerable, her stage presence never in doubt. She sells Calamity’s mannish braggadocio as easily as she does her latter turn towards the feminine side.

As for those legendary songs – My Secret Love, Windy City, Deadwood Stage – Lee proves up to the task, her warm voice bringing us fully on side. And when she duets with the charming Claire Riddoch – new girl in town Katie Brown – for A Woman’s Touch, you can see why they have men swooning… their different tones really complement one another.

Partnering Lee is Dougal Affleck as Wild Bill Hickok, scout, gambler and sure shot. Affleck’s Hickok oozes manly charm without ever approaching boorishness, and his delivery of Higher Than a Hawk is a highlight.

a knack for comedy

Riddoch shows a real knack for comedy as the unfortunate Katie, who arrives in Deadwood pretending to be someone she isn’t, and her Keep It Under Your Hat is a real treat. There’s also a nice number, Love You Dearly, with soldier beau Danny Gilmartin, played by one very smooth Andrew Jack.

Song and dance man Francis Fryer is hugely likeable as played by Mark Becher, his comedy songs going down a treat, while his romance with Susan Miller (the splendidly animated Claire Bayne) is rather lovely. Susan’s saloon-owning pop Henry Miller, as played by the rock solid Bob Crawford, is a hoot, while the excellent Kit Millar makes the most of her short turn as Chicago songbird Adelaide Adams.

The main players are surrounded by a smart supporting cast, with Jane Renton’s Rattlesnake a scene stealer I can’t imagine anyone minds – she’s hilarious. The cast of townsfolk, soldiers and Indians don’t put a foot wrong, and the ensemble singing is rarely less than fine. Oh, and a shout-out to young Callum McMaster for some great dancing as a yellow-clad Chicago smoothie… this kid is going places, and I don’t mean Deadwood.

Director Graeme Aitken shows real talent for wrangling a large cast, with smart decisions aplenty – the only thing disappointment is having Act Two open with our heroine already sporting a frilly frock for A Woman’s Touch… Where’s the transformation from deerskin to gingham, like in the film? Let’s see that deliberate ugly duckling become a swan! Most likely it’s the show script rather than an artistic choice, but still…

Laura Paterson is musical director and everything goes extremely smoothly, with the audience unable to not sing along to the gorgeous Black Hills of Dakota. And choreographer Lisa McLeod deserves credit for the neat numbers, not least a cheeky can-can.

From front of house to wardrobe to set painters, there’s no dead wood in this production – don’t miss it.

Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes including interval
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA.
Thursday 12 – Saturday 14 February 2018
Evenings: 7.30pm; matinee, Sat, 2pm.
Tickets and details:

MAMA website:
Facebook: @mamamusselburgh
Twitter: @MAMAmusselburgh.


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