Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

calamity head

Calamity Jane

Manor Musical Theatre Company

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall


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 calamity castwith 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 and marry later this year– 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.

Other strong contribution come from Paul Wozniak as Francis Fryer, the entertainer hired by the local saloon in the belief that he is a glamorous female vocalist, Susan Bushby (Adelaide Adams) and Lynne Ridge (Henry Miller)

And one of several highspots comes when the ensemble sing the moving Black Hills of Dakota, having strolled through the theatre aisles, while the opening of the show amuses the audience when musical director Ian Hayward is escorted to his orchestra by two chorus girls after an apparent brush with red Indians . . . an arrow through is Stetson!

Calamity Jane is produced by Susan Bushby and Barbara Hayward, with Maggie Moriarty’s bright choreography.

Next year the company – which is supporting the Midlands Air Ambulance - will be staging the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit, South Pacific (April 25-29)

To 30-04-16

Paul Marston


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