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May 2009
'Calamity Jane' by James O'Hanlon
Lyrics by Paul Frances
Music by Sammy Fain

Reviewed by Emily Pearce, June 5th, 2009
(reproduced by kind permission of
the Isle of Wight County Press)

I’VE always thought Calamity Jane was a bit of an odd musical.

It has this incredible setting, a lawless frontier town rife with gambling and prostitution, and a dynamic central character, the fast-talking, gun-toting, Injun fighting Calamity, and how does she spend most of the show? Trying to track down some actress. It just seems like a waste.

Nevertheless, the Cowes Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (CAODS) put their all into the musical, with performances at the Trinity Theatre, Cowes, last week.

Hannah Brewer was a tour de force as Calamity, bringing an irrepressible energy and whip-smart attitude to the role.
The 18 year old also had a wonderful singing voice and nailed the accent, which is more than can be said for most of the cast.
The other stand-out performance came from Hebe Gregory, who played would-be star and all-round sweetheart Katie Brown.
At just 16 and with a stunning voice, she is definitely a talent to watch out for.

Stuart Adams was suitably brash as Wild Bill Hickock, with a nice line in tough-talking swagger but David Stradling was too feeble to play the supposedly dashing Lt Danny Gilmartin.

What really let the production down was its romantic element — all three love stories managed to be both predictable and, at the same time, utterly unconvincing. As far as I’m concerned, the real love story is the one between Katie and Calamity, whose friendship with Bill was far more engaging than any romance could be.

There were lots of good things about the show, including catchy songs, a superb orchestra, an energetic chorus line and, it must be stressed again, a fantastic lead performance but, while it wasn’t exactly a calamity, it lacked the wow factor that makes a production stand out.

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