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Newbury Operatic Society - Calamity Jane

18th to 22nd April 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Rootin' tootin' cowgirl

Newbury Operatic Society: Calamity Jane, at The Corn Exchange, from Tuesday April 18 to Saturday, April 22

You can rely on Newbury Operatic Society to provide an enjoyable evening and their latest production, though not perhaps a top-notcher, did exactly that.

There was much that was good and the orchestra was certainly one of the stars of the evening. Under Michael Evans' baton, they gave Sammy Fain's music a lift and sparkle, accompanying the performers with sensitivity.

Impressive, too, was Debbie Akers' lively choreography, not only in the ever-popular can-can, but also for the slick co-ordination with which the cast carried out their moves, making the chorus numbers a delight from the opening, knee-slapping Deadwood Stage to the final Black Hills of Dakota. Well done chorus.

With such good back-up, the performers had a chance to do their best and, while Zoe Wells had a big job to do in following Doris Day, who made the role her own, she successfully and energetically threw herself into the part as the gun-totin', sarsparilla-swillin' Calam. Though crackly and uneven miking occasionally bedevilled some of her songs, her sparky Windy City number was a highlight of the evening.

Award for best singer goes to Russell Barrett, whose rich resonant voice, reminiscent of Howard Keel, was at its very best singing My Heart Is Higher Than a Hawk. The role of Wild Bill Hickok was made for him and the dialogue between Bill and Calamity sounded completely natural - not easy to achieve.

Rowena Robinson looked good as the girly Katie Brown, who captures the heart of dashing Danny Gilmartin (Neil Harvey), while in smaller roles Utku Er was a master of the tap dance, and I particularly enjoyed Sasha Robazynski as Susan, his girlfriend.

The chorus singing was crisp and clear, though with a slight imbalance towards the men; the women's sound was sweet but a few more strong singers would have helped.

So why was it not a top-notcher? To me there seemed to be a slight air of austerity about the set and some costumes were unflattering to the extent of being distracting.

Nevertheless Sarah Scott-Cound can be proud of this, her first full-scale essay into direction and for continuing the tradition of the NOS to be entertaining and enjoyable.