ELOC – “Calamity Jane”
Epsom Playhouse – 18th April 2018

This much loved show featuring Doris Day and Howard Keel and full of haunting melodies has gone down in showbiz history as one of the great shows.   To say that ELOC did full justice to this mighty show would be to understate things.   This performance had all the requirements any lover of musicals could ever want,

Magnetic performances by the lead players and supporting roles;  pace, panache and musicality  from  the lively and active chorus;  crisp, lively dance routines and colourful, even sumptuous costumes aplenty.

Underpinning this thrilling production was the magnetic and slender figure of  Emily Pike, Doris Day’s young self come magically back to her peak as Calamity.   This sassy, vibrant young lady was a real titan on stage, capturing every eye and every male heart!   Playing opposite Doris, sorry Emily, was Barry Stevens, excellent and world weary as “Wild” Bill Hickock.   As the glorious melodies in this mighty score came tumbling out one by one – and what a list they are – each was enacted with marvellous musicality and truth.    Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, music and lyric writers would have been proud of this performance.    

To me as an older lover of real melodies, this musical was a rare treat, reminiscent  of the days when all amateur theatre leads and supporting roles were expected to bring  top quality singing to the roles.

David Edwards and his fourteen instrument by thirteen musicians band gave full rein to the marvellous music and David’s control of dynamics was superb.   I heard every word by all the soloists, which is not a regular occurrence.   Sure footed sound by Stuart Vaughan played an important role throughout.

Lucinda Banton as Katie Brown, at first somewhat timid, as the character demands, blossomed into full throttle in both acting and singing as the crowd encouraged her.   Her two duets with Calamity and with Danny were show highlights by all three players.

Other top performances were given by Stephen Chalkley as Lt. Danny Gilmartin, Max Marchesi as the “frightened” Francis Fryer – a peach of a performance – and the mesmeric Chris Evans as bar owner Henry Miller.

Nic Ash as Joe the Barman gave sterling support and showed his rich baritone voice and Dil Patel did equally well as “Doc” Pierce, as did Hannah Wade as Susan Miller.   Many other named characters , too many to credit individually, nevertheless made their various roles real individuals and added much lustre to their pacy, vibrant performances.   Four Stage Door Johnies, well dressed apart from some unpolished black shoes, fĂȘted the “superior”        Adelaide Adams, played to the hilt by Rachel Yelland.   I was sorry to see her leave, so polished was she!

I really cannot praise the ensemble too highly!   Energy, life, pace and individual characters abounded in all company scenes.   Energetic, really well rehearsed and some intricate dance routines by choreographer Dawn made a full contribution in so many scenes.

The saloon set was magnificently real, detailed and one really felt drawn in to the scene.   Stage manager Sarah Wood, assisted by Richard Pike and their team worked wonders with slick changes.   I also much liked the cabin and the transformation as if by magic!

Mighty show director James Fortune is well known as a top Magic Circle magician and his magic dust was showered all over this show.   His groupings, slick changes with  skilled use of highly atmospheric lighting under Simon Banks and his “spot on” team were from the very top drawer.

Other highlights – though the entire show was one long highlight – were the gorgeous and emotionally sung “Secret Love” by Emily, “Higher than a Hawk” by Barry, the umbrella dance scene with Max and magnificent girl dancers and “Windy City”, including the reprise.

Costumes way above amateur standard were provided by Elizabeth Callow and Dress Circle, all co-ordinated most effectively by Elizabeth.

All in all a top rate  show and ELOC have once again lived up to their top class and richly deserved  reputation.                                                                                                                             

Jon Fox
NODA District 19

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