~MANOR MUSICAL THEATRE COMPANY~ SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN HALL APRIL 2016
THIS is the company’s first production under their new name, replacing ‘operatic society’ in the title to keep up to date with current trends. What hasn't changed is the high quality on stage, and the audience reaction to early performances of this famous Western musical will be a huge boost after last year’s show had to be cancelled. The story of gun-toting Calamity Jane, who drives the Deadwood Stage, dresses like a man and is well-meaning but prone to exaggeration, is impressively told by a cast oozing talent and enthusiasm. It helps if you have outstanding leads, and Barbara Hayward and Barry Styles certainly excel as ‘Calam’ and Wild Bill Hickock who, despite their occasional upsets, eventually find true love. Barbara, playing the girl who is careless with the truth, delivers just the right blend of toughness and vulnerability to the role, while Styles is well cast as Hickock, his rich voice perfect for ‘Higher Than a Hawk’, in the second act. Beth Willis and Andy Hooper – who met in the production of Oklahoma in 2014 – impress as saloon singer Katie Brown and cavalry officer Lt Danny Gilmartin, the other love interest in the show which is packed with good music, bright colour and humour. One of several high spots comes when the ensemble sing the moving Black Hills of Dakota. Calamity Jane is produced by Susan Bushby and Barbara Hayward, with Maggie Moriarty’s choreography and Ian Hayward’s musical direction.
VERDICT: ***** PAUL MARSTON