THE days when it was politically correct for Native Americans to be called Indians, and for a few of them to be shot if you wanted to save your scalp, came alive in Burton this week.
Calamity Jane, presented by the Mellow Dramatics and produced by Sharon Plummer, proved a huge success when it opened at the Brewhouse Arts Centre on Tuesday. The theatre throbbed to the songs of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.
The evening was a triumph for Gina Downing as the gun-toting Calamity who rode like a man, could shoot like a man, dressed like a man – but then allowed herself to be transformed into the most beautiful woman in Deadwood, the small one-horse town back of beyond among the black hills of South Dakota.
Gina superbly led the ensemble in hits like The Deadwood Stage and duetted marvellously with Andy Warner as Wild Bill Hickock and Catherine Towland as the heart-stealing songstress Katie Brown. Gina’s versatility spilled forth in her varied repertoire: there was her gender-bashing anthem Men and her amusing disparagement of the Windy City against the merits of her own modest town.
Then there was her sincerity and tenderness in the moving romantic number My Secret Love.
The story of how Calamity lost the man she loved to Katie but found happiness with Wild Bill is well known from the Doris Day film. But like the shaky facts in Calamity’s autobiography this delightful and enjoyable musical play is neatly summed up by the title of one of its liveliest songs – Careless With The Truth. Never mind – a bit of fantasy hurts nobody.
Martyn Cotterill as Calamity’s first love, Tom Brassington as a visiting singer and Mike Storr as the harassed proprietor of the Golden Garter – Deadwood’s centre for drinking, gambling, singing, dancing and ogling can-can girls – gave convincing performances.
Are the Mellors in need of a few more male actors? Or was it by design that five men played multiple roles?
There was certainly no lack of female talent including choral and dancing members who all did a terrific job.
Full marks as always to the orchestra, which was under the baton of musical director Sara Kimber.
The show continues tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday evening and there is also a Saturday afternoon matinee (box office 01283 508100).