Conceived as a film – a reaction from Warner Brothers to the success of Annie, Get Your Gun – and as a vehicle for Doris Day, the 1961 stage musical version of Calamity Jane doesn’t really have a lot to recommend it – bar the four well-known songs that grace its score.
Jane Pegler is brave to tackle this as her first directorial outing for the South Downe Musical Society: the plot as thin as ice on an August afternoon, and the score is largely forgettable, but the girl done good.
The director has forged a pleasing evening with a largely youthful cast. Alan Jenkins gives his trademark character turn, this time including a drag-number that threatens to live long in the memory, while Danny Owen lends his rich tones to Wild Bill Hickock.
But the show belongs to the women – Helen Stoddart as Adelaide, Kayleigh Millen as Susan, Caitlin Hoddle as Katie and, of course, Kimberley Harvey, feisting her way through her first leading role for the company. This girl done good, too.
Sometimes the staging tends to the static, and the bizarrely ubiquitous swing-door could perhaps be removed from the scenes in which it isn’t necessary – but it’s good to see fresh blood at the helm both directorially and on stage.Long may it continue.