Calamity Jane

Date 2nd May 2024
Society Wigan Musical Theatre Group
Venue St Michael's Parish Hall, Shaw Street, Wigan
Type of Production Musical
Director John Clinton
Musical Director Joan Bond
Choreographer Emily Fenton/John Clinton

Report

Author: Jim Briscoe

Calamity Jane… a musical performed by Wigan Musical Theatre Group at St Michaels Parish Hall, Shaw Street, Wigan on Thursday 2nd May, 2024.

This Musical Western, based on the historical figure of frontierswoman ‘Calamity Jane’ was first produced for the stage back in 1961.  Based on the 1953 Warner Brothers hit musical film of the same name which starred Doris Day as Calamity Jane… from a book written by Ronald Hanmer and Phil Park, with song lyrics by Paul Francis Webber and music by Sammy Fain… this really is a ‘classic’. The storyline tells of Deadwood City’s two most famous ‘peace keepers’ … ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘Wild Bill Hickock’ and their involvement in saving the neck of ‘Saloon Operator’ Henry Miller.  It seems that "Millie" has been promoting a beautiful actress named Frances Fryer, but Frances turns out to be a male, Francis. Millie's attempt to cover up is soon unmasked by the angry miners, and only Calamity can cool the crowd with her trusty pistols. To keep the peace, Calamity sets out for Chicago to bring back the miner's real heart-throb, Adelaide Adams. In Chicago Calamity mistakes Adelaide's maid, Katie Brown, for the actress and hauls her back to Deadwood. Onstage Katie is greeted warmly, but breaks down and confesses that she is not the famous star. Calamity once more has to restore order and persuade the audience to give Katie a chance. They do, and she wins the heart of every male in town including Calamity's dashing love hope, Lt. Danny Gilmartin. Calamity reluctantly overcomes her jealousy over losing Danny and discovers her true love for Wild Bill

Production Team… charged with guiding us through those Black Hills and the ups and downs of all that is Deadwood City we had John Clinton (Director), the ever so experienced Joan Bond (Musical Director) and Emily Fenton and John Clinton (Choreographers). I really do love westerns and the choice of Calamity Jane proved to be a real winner for Wigan Musical Theatre Group. The production team had chosen a great cast… from the opening scene in The Golden Garter to the finale bows, they all looked happy, engaged, adding their own individual contributions, whilst creating recognisable characters. Joan Bond and her orchestra did a great job with probably the most recognisable musical scores in the ‘western genre’, supporting all the singers ever so well. The choreography created by Emily Fenton and John was simple yet effective and used every inch of this compact stage. Well, done to each and all…

The Cast … every member on that stage, that evening, worked their ‘socks off’, ‘gave us their all’ whilst adding ‘their own individual contribution’, creating their own ‘recognisable character’ and if I’m honest, it really was difficult to identify a weakness, so when that happens it becomes difficult to start selecting ‘favourites’, without doing injustice to other  …  the success of this production was down to the ‘whole’ and not an ‘individual’ … although I do think it would be remiss of me, not to give a few ‘shout outs’ later … the cast included … Kim Brookfield who  took on the lead role as ‘Calamity Jane’; Mark Lloyd played ‘Wild Bill Hickock; Robert Kenyon as ‘Lt. Danny Gilmartin’; Lucy Bache as ‘Katie Brown’; Matt Morrell as ‘Henry Miller’; Jess Lloyd as ‘Susan Miller’; Aidan Miners as ‘Francis Fryer’; Cara Bullock as ‘Adeliade Adams’; Mark Fenton as ‘Rattlesnake’; Michele Kenny as ‘Doc Pierce’; Ian Hollis as ‘Joe’; John Clinton as Colonel Stark/Hank… the principle characters were supported ever so well by the ensemble…  Annellen Fazackerley, Sophie Harrison, Charley Hickey, Kristina King, Louise Osmond, Hannah Vosper, John McNaughton, Brian Middlehurst, Christine Armstrong, Ros Cropper, Hazel Dobson, Julie Edwards, Val Hogg, Bernie Murphy, Elizebeth Wallwork, Joyce Ratcliffe, Maria Rignall, Carol Smith, Dominic Sharpe (Saloon Girls, Stage Door Johnnies and Townsfolk)   ‘Shout Outs’ …they include three couples and a cameo… first couple Kim Brookfield and Mark Lloyd playing ‘Calamity’ and ‘Wild Bill’ respectively, two of our four leads … took their parts and made them their own.  I think I read somewhere that this was Kim’s fourth time in the ‘leathers’ … well ‘practice makes perfect’ I would suggest … what a great job she made of the role… stage presence aplenty, great character created, great vocals… worked ever so well with Mark who also gave us a strong performance as ‘the ever so wild ‘Bill Hickcock’.  Loved ‘Higher than a Hawk’… one of my favourite songs from any musical, it was a joy to listen to. We had another ‘good pairing’ in the form of Lucy Bache and Robert Kenyon playing ‘Katie Brown’ and ‘Lt Danny Gilmartin’ respectively. Both looked totally comfortable in these parts. Lucy had great stage presence and a voice to match, the duets with ‘Calamity’ and ‘Danny’… ‘A Woman’s Touch’ and ‘Love You Dearly’ blended their voices together ever so well… great renditions!   Final couple was Jess Lloyd and Aiden Miners portrayals of ‘Susan Miller’ and ‘Francis (with an ‘I’) Fryer’. Jess did a tremendous job with this role, creating this totally believable character who was obviously in love with ‘Francis’… Aiden brought the comedy element to the show…. loved ‘Hive Full of Honey’, I’ve played this role myself a couple of times … great role to play!  Finally, just wanted to give a ‘shout out’ to Cara Bullock’s portrayal of ‘Adelaide Adams’ … it’s a cameo part for sure, but her rendition of ‘It’s Harry I’m Planning to Marry’ was sung to perfection… great voice… be proud Cara, how to make a mark from a cameo role!   

Tech/Staging … how you put full musicals on at St Michael’s Parish Hall I really don’t know… but you do and they look and sound amazing!  When you know the layout and the limitations ‘backstage’ wing space is at a premium … then precision, planning and thought’ are surely the name of the game… so its congrats to the ever-present Shelia Cleary (Stage Manager) and her amazing Stage Crew … for just knowing how to make things flow in a quiet and efficient manner.  Every inch of that stage was used, scene changes were slick … be proud one and all!

Sound and Lighting again… full of limitations… but nothing seems to go amiss … you can see and hear everyone… the wizards making that happen are Erik Newman, Peter Wallwork, Clive Green, Matt Hollis and Cath Stockley… (just wanted to mention the ‘follow spots’ … never an easy task and I’m not aware of who was in charge… but the ‘follow spots’ did ‘exactly what it said on the tin’… be ever so proud whoever you where!

Orchestra … lead by the ever-present Joan Bond (Musical Director) - (Keyboard), Katie Bradley and Ann Vosper (Woodwind), Kevin Bates (Bass Guitar) and Nick Woods (Percussion) … great job folks!

Costumes … under that watchful eye of Clare Hodkinson…  were excellent, of the period and enhanced the production ever so much… provided from our own society stock and Costume Store Online.

Props… were excellent and used ever so well… being looked after by Shelia Cleary and Andrea Connell.
(Guns acquired from Altrincham Garrick & Dave Cox)

In Loving Memory…. the Society, in their programme had made note of two ‘stalwarts’ who had recently ‘passed’ Joan Schofield who had been a staunch supporter and front of house helper for many, many years.  Paul Balfour who, for thirty years, had ‘trod the boards’ with Wigan Musical Theatre Group… his passing on the 2nd April was devastating.  Paul had been cast in the role of ‘Rattlesnake’ in their production of ‘Calamity Jane’ and had been rehearsing with the cast for the show. They both will be missed … RIP Paul… RIP Joan  

Thank you so much for inviting Susan and I to your production, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks for your welcome and your hospitality throughout (and Yes John …. Frances’s cake was up there with one of her best) Be proud of what you achieved and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Stay safe, keep well…
‘Stronger Together’

Jim Briscoe
NODA NW
District 6 Rep