Blackpool: Calamity Jane - 7th June 2003
Jane at the Opera House, Blackpool
Toyah led a strong cast through the
opening night of Calamity Jane and took
everyone's breath away with an energetic display,
leaping from the rafters to a saloon bar.
production also featured Michael Cormick as Wild
Bill Hickock (or a boy named Sioux!) and the
impressive Emma Dodd as Adelaid Adams.
suitably boyish, Toyah's exuberance would have
shamed performers half her age. Cracking show and
Bristol: Facing a calamity in the Wild West - 29th May 2003
Jane at The Hippodrome, Bristol
is one of my all time favourite musicals.
The 1953 film,
starring Doris Day and Howard Keel is for
me virtually faultless, with its great
musical numbers and high calibre of acting and
So, you can
imagine that I arrived at the Hippodrome for a
version of the story starring former 80s pop
chick, and recent celebrity jungle escapee Toyah
Willcox, with some amount of trepidation.
the main part, I was successfully converted and
spent a highly enjoyable evening, as did the rest
of a very appreciative audience.
For those of
you who do not know the story, Calamity Jane is
actually based on the life of real
frontierswoman, Martha Jane Cannary who was born
in Missouri in 1852.
She lived quite
a strange and independent life in the wild west
which included working on the railroad, as
a professional gambler, gold prospector and a
And, as in the
musical, she did actually marry a man called Wild
Bill Hickok, himself a highly colourful character
who spent parts of his life as a lawman and
others as an outlaw.
Im afraid, fact and fantasy diverge.
In our story
Calamity is a gun-toting tomboy, determined to
live as a man in a hard mans world, while
still retaining a strange naiveté and faith in
exaggeration of the truth is known by the whole
community of frontiers town Deadwood, spends a
great deal of her time sparring with the handsome
Wild Bill or mooning over the lieutenant
at the local fort.
But he of
course just sees her as one of the lads and when
Calamity is sent off to bring a famous actress to
the town, to perform at the local saloon, and
instead brings back the actresss maid
Katie, you have the beginnings of trouble a
And so to the
Hippodrome production where from the very first
notes of the overture the audience was
transported into the Wild West.
The basic set,
with its very simple, but highly effective
backdrop of Dakotas Black Hills and an
ever-changing skyline, designed by Simon Higlett,
gave us a taste of the basic conditions frontiers
folk must have lived in.
cast was excellent, with special mention for Phil
Ormerod as actor Francis Fryer, forced to perform
on stage as a woman when he first arrives in
Deadwood after a case of mistaken identity, and
young Abigail Aston, who brought to life saloon
owners daughter Susan, in what was her
characters were also well played, Australian
Michael Cormick, gave exactly the right amount of
gravitas to the part of Wild Bill, with a truly
lovely voice, which had the power and range to do
justice to what are some excellent songs.
But what of
Well Toyah is
certainly a seasoned professional and is
amazingly fit for, dare I say it, someone
of her age.
She put an
amazing amount of energy into Calamity and was at
her best when her character was being larger than
life, or battling with Wild Bill.
she wasnt able to bring the naiveté and
innocence to the part that is really needed if
our sympathies are to lie with Calamity.
Nor was her
voice powerful enough to do justice to some of
the songs in particular the final number
She and the
rest of the cast were also not helped by the
sound, with mics not always being switched quite
quickly enough to catch the performers
this is nit picking. Director Ed Curtis did a
fine job of bringing this touring production to
the stage and at the end of the day it was a
highly entertaining evening which sent the
audience home with a smile on their faces,
whistling the catchy tunes.
together whipcrack away, whipcrack away,
Daily Echo: Calamity Jane - 10th April 2003
Jane at the Mayflower, Southampton
Who would have
thought, back in the early 1980s when the
shock-haired chanteuse made a nation quake in its
boots with her threats to "turn this world
upside-down", that Toyah Willcox would one
day be playing the title role in Calamity Jane?
to wholesome family entertainer might have seemed
unthinkable then, but it's a perfectly acceptable
career trajectory these days, and Toyah has
navigated it with success.
originally intended for the stage, Fain and
Webster's musical, made as a film starring Doris
Day in 1953, had the first night audience at The
Mayflower humming along to such memorable numbers
as The Deadwood Stage and Black Hills of Dakota.
Toyah gives an
energetic performance as the gun-toting cowgirl
discovering her inner femininity, although her
voice is slightly too abrasive for the swooning
likes of Secret Love (a number one British hit
notwithstanding, this stage version occasionally
came across as static and unimaginative. The set,
featuring too much fence-type panelling, was also
it still made for a fairly entertaining night
out. One word of warning, though: the gunshots in
this show will have you leaping out of your skin.
Calamity is breathtaking - 4th April 2003
Jane at the The Empire, Liverpool
actress and singer Toyah Willcox whip-cracked her
way onto the Liverpool Empire stage last week for
a lively four-night run of 'Calamity Jane'.
Supported by a
strong cast, including Alasdair Harvey as Jane's
future husband Wild Bill Hickok, Toyah took the
lead as the hard-hitting and tough-talking Indian
scout who puts her reputation on the line when
she promises to bring a famous singing star all
the way from Chicago to Dakota's Golden Garter
After a small
matter of mistaken identity, the dainty chanteuse
and our heroine become the best of friends -
until Calamity realises she may have a rival for
the affections of two of the town's most eligible
cowboys, the dashing Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin
and fast drawing Wild Bill Hickock.
Directed by Ed
Curtis and described as an 'action packed,
rip-roaring roller coaster' the show featured a
nice mixture of comedy and drama. It also
featured the classics 'The Deadwood Stage', 'The
Black Hills of Dakota' and the Oscar-winning hit
Full marks to
the set designers. The scenery was basic, but
very effective - the small-scale replicas of the
Golden Garter Saloon and other buildings in the
wild west, the backdrop of mountains, blue skies
and fantastic sunsets were enough to convince me
and the rest of the packed first-night audience
that we had left Merseyside and were in the town
of Deadwood, Dakota - a typical wild west town
where men are cowboys and women are clean-living,
wholesome gals. Sammy Fain's explosive music and
high-kicking dancing from the ensemble sealed the
Toyah is an
energetic performer with more than 26 years in
the business behind her.
And it was
clear that she really enjoyed her time on
stage... climbing all over much of it, whether it
be a stage coach or the walls of Henry Miller's
saloon she seemed to make the character of
Calamity her own - complete with swaggering walk.
The only problem, I found with daredevil Toyah's
performance was that the boundless energy and
enthusiasm was breathtaking... but it sometimes
affected the clarity of the songs. That said, she
made the performance her own and was a joy to
Post/IC Liverpool: Calamity Jane - 3rd April 2003
Jane at the The Empire, Liverpool
There are stage
musicals that get turned into films and film
musicals that get turned into stage shows.
Calamity Jane is a rare example of the latter.
difficulties of confining a wide open film onto a
single stage are often apparent in this
adaptation by Charles K Freeman.
There is a
stage-coach with no horses, a town suggested by a
dolls' house set, scenes that have to be cut
(like Calamity's battle with the Indians) and
Where the film
has Calamity singing The Deadwood Stage atop a
stage-coach, this theatrical version has a less
entertaining chorus to tackle the song.
Of course, it
is best not to remember the film as in many ways
this is a very different entertainment.
as Calamity is a rougher, tougher version of
Doris Day with a coarser voice and a peculiar
swagger to her walk. She also - literally -
climbs all over the scenery, singing from a cross
beam at one moment, upside down at another and
gets hauled onto bar tops and other surfaces.
It is such an
all-action performance that she often seems
breathless, tackling the score by Sammy Fain and
Paul Francis Webster at breakneck speed. What she
gains in sheer vivacity she loses in clarity and
is a Wild Bill Hickock in Alasdair Harvey who
knows how to tackle a song and give it some
style, most notably in his Higher Than a Hawk.
are generally pushed into the shade with Ms
Willcox's athletic and non-stop performance, but
Kellie Ryan and Phil Ormerod as the visiting
performers Katie Brown and Francis Fryer in the
Wild West town of Deadwood give it a reasonable
Higlett has some bright ideas, including a Gone
With the Wind sky and the chorus often matches
Willcox for sheer energy.
It's good fun
alright, but there are times when the production
needs to catch its breath and concentrate on the
songs, particularly Webster's witty lyrics.
By Philip Key
Nottingham: Calamity Jane - 28th March 2003
Jane at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Toyah Willcox, makes a darn good
"Calam", bearing in mind the tough act
she had to follow.
It was always
going to be a tough act to follow, when MGM cast
Doris Day as Calamity Jane they created a little
bit of motion picture magic. Fast forward 50
years and the Theatre Royal is the latest place
to have the Deadwood Stage roll into town. I
cant have been the only person who was
surprised by the casting of Toyah Willcox as
It was hard to
imagine how the woman who was so memorable on Top
of the Pops in the 1980s could step into
Doris buckskin suit.
because she doesnt try to mimic Doris,
Toyah makes the part her own. Shes wise
crackin , shes rumbustious, for one
who nudges five foot she gives a ten foot
performance. She really does command the stage
when shes on it, but not to the detriment
of the other young cast members.
delighted an appreciative audience with her gutsy
performance as Katie Brown. She is a strong
singer with great comic timing as the hapless
ingenue and she hits all her big songs with
as Wild Bill Hickok, Tony Stansfield as the
dispairing Henry "Millie" Miller and
Phil Ormerod as Francis Fryer all help the show
bowl along smoother than a ride on the Deadwood
If the cast
doesnt impress, then the sets will - the
creative use of space, makes for a very credible
Wild West town and an impressive backdrop for one
of the major songs of the show, the Black Hills
All the big
numbers are there, The Deadwood Stage, Windy
City, The Black Hills of Dakota and of course,
the UK number one and Oscar winning song, Secret
If there is a
weakness in Toyahs performance this is it
she doesnt have the vocal range of
Doris Day. It was a passionate delivery if not a
are a few other moments where the cast struggle
to be heard above the band, but they can be
forgiven . If you fancy a few hours away from the
ongoing problems in the world , I recommend
hitchin a ride with Calamity Jane.
By Carol Hinds
EDP24: Calamity Jane -20th March 2003
Jane at the Theatre Royal, Norwich
Sometimes it is
good to get away from it all in this
instance, far away and way back in time.
Back not to the
Wild West, but to the Wild West that never really
was, though it ought to have been to satisfy
imagination about an era when feelings ran high
and a good song could settle everything before
matters got too serious.
So in bounces
Calamity in the shape of Toyah Willcox.
Just about 5ft
of electrifying energy, whip-cracking,
pistol-packing and gripping the Theatre Royal
She even takes
us back to those days when just the sight of a
girl in trousers thrilled every man in the
audience. Her partner Alastair Harvey, a big man,
makes her seem even smaller, with a large voice
In support, a
cast that takes the secondary roles joins up
again in the ensemble, high-kicking, smartly
manoeuvring and catching every change of mood
often, literally, at the drop of a
The jokes are
there, but no one lingers on them. Because this
is a show that has to go on and on, carrying us
along before we think too much.
by Ed Curtis is better than slick it is
the scenes transform before our eyes is a genuine
part of the fun.
Calamity's cabin couldn't be done better.
And those Black
Hills of Dakota are a delight for more than two
hours, a rugged chain on the horizon and a back
cloth that captures every tint of splendid
director is Robert Cousins, quick on the uptake
at the start of the numbers and giving support
that is vigorous and full of character without
ever getting too loud.
Norwich: Calamity Jane - 18th March 2003
Jane at the Theatre Royal, Norwich
a show for the faint-hearted. If you love plenty
of rootin' tootin' undemanding thigh slapping
entertainment then go and enjoy!
of gunfire and whips cracking away in this tale
of the (very) Wild West and Miss Calamity Jane.
If you're of the nervous disposition then stay
started out as a screen musical with Doris Day
first bringing us those familiar songs like The
Deadwood Stage and Secret Love.
This is a show
where you go in humming the tunes. And there's a
big, brassy band in the pit under the tight
direction of Robert Cousins which gives that
smashing Broadway style sound and a great
overture which really gets you in the mood.
last seen at the Theatre Royal in pantomime plays
Calamity. A five foot bundle of energy who
constantly leaps about the stage and up the
scenery too, given half the chance!
She may bear a
passing resemblance to Doris Day but she gives
this a gutsy performance in which she stamps her
own mark. Perhaps a little more light and shade
is needed among this constant yee-ahh-ing,
particularly when she decides her secret love is
no secret any more and she falls for Wild Bill
But it's a
great performance for all that, particularly when
she clambers on the top of the stage-coach and
fights off hordes of Indians. This is well
handled with guns blazing and - thanks to a
brilliant sound system - arrows swooshing over
your head. You want to duck!
It's a strong
cast. Kellie Ryan is good as Katie Brown, and
both Alasdair Harvey as Wild Bill and Garry Kilby
as Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin have superb voices
and a long string of West End appearances to
their name. Alasdair has also been seen in
Casulaty and Holby City as a doctor.
The story is
based on the true tale of Calamity Jane, a
western woman well able to look after herself but
who is quite capable of embellishing stories of
her heroic exploits.
This lands her
in trouble when she boasts she can get a top star
from Chicago to come and perform at the Deadwood
saloon. Instead of the star she brings back her
maid instead who promptly falls for Lieutenant
Gilmartin - and Calamity had a soft spot for him
too, oh well.
It all ends
happily and she declares her Secret Love for Wild
Bill Hickock. Its not deep emotional stuff but it
provides a framework for this easy-going show and
its well known tunes.
atmospheric set designed by Simon Higlett which
has a backdrop which incorporates both those
Black Hills of Dakota and a beautiful sky which
can change from sunrise to sunset and everything
A musical like
this is essentially escapist stuff and what
better way to forget what's going on in the big,
wide world for two and a half hours by heading
into the whimsical Wild West?
With its high
standards in every department (there's a
possibility it might be transferring to the West
End) it's a good night out.
Eastbourne: Calamity Jane - 7th march 2003
Jane at the Congress Theatre, Eastbourne
burst on to the Congress Theatre's stage as the
madcap tomboy, all guns firing, her whip cracking
and as feisty as you could wish.
noted actress and pop singer, was as clean cut as
Doris Day, the star of the film, with long,
blonde hair and a penchant for wearing men's
But when she
changed into a dress, wow, she became the
prettiest little gal in town.
Fain/Paul Webster musical spawned a number of
hits and all were well presented by Willcox and a
fine ensemble cast that had the audience's feet
tapping from curtain up.
It's a trite
tale of a Deadwood bar owner who is awaiting the
arrival of Frances (with an "E") Fryer,
a noted New York dancer and singer, but who
mistakenly gets Francis (with an "I")
Fryer, a song-and-dance man.
Suffice to say
Calamity is dispatched to Chicago to bring
another singer, Adelaide Adams, back to the
Western town, thus saving the landlord's
as her name might suggest, brings back Katie
Brown, Ms Adam's maid, who begins to interfere
with Calamity's love rivals, Wild Bill Hickok
(Alasdair Harvey) and Lt Danny Gilmartin (Gary
was a fast-paced, fun-packed show with some fancy
shooting and excellent whip-cracking as the two
lead ladies were left to sort things out.
piled up and were belted out in a no-nonsense
manner. This was a show where the songs took you
Stage, Careless With The Truth, I Can Do Without
You and Windy City were just a few of the songs
everyone seemed to know.
Secret Love was a real treat and The Black Hills
Of Dakota brought the show to a climax.
Kelly Ryan as
Katie Brown proved she is a performer to watch
out for. She has a fine musical entertainment
voice and blessed us with a dance routine and
dress that showed off her legs to the full.
The sets were
uncomplicated and easily summoned up the Wild
West from all those images we have seen in the
hundreds of Western films we watched as
But Willcox was
the real star as she ran, jumped, danced and hung
from the beams of the saloon, giving every man
his comeuppance along the way.
It was a
feisty, fizzy show ideally suited to the Congress
Theatre and obviously an event dearly loved by
the sell-out crowd.
tragedy was that it was booked only for a week.
Somehow, I think it could have lasted far
Recorder: Calamity pain! Show is so tough on
the cast - 27th February 2003
Jane at the Cliff's Pavilion, Southend-On-Sea
It would seem
that whatever the versatile Toyah Willcox does is
a success. I spoke to her a couple
of weeks ago about her lead role in touring
musical Calamity Jane, playing there this week.
She said: "I thought I would be nursing my
voice not the bruises."
She meant the
action was fast and furious. After seeing the
show on Friday, I can confirm that she was dead
For such a
petite thing, Toyah's interpretation of the
rootin-tootin-shootin legend of the Wild West,
was very good. She had a hard act to follow after
Doris Day made the role her own in the film of
the 1960's and to some extent the stage
version suffered because people's memories are
The amount of
props on stage was impressive. The full working
stagecoach, even minus the horses, looked good.
The way Toyah shinned up and down it was even
more impressive, particularly as she was singing
at the same time.
troupe were extremely good, and at times during
the frenetic action they looked as if they were
about to land in the third row.
played Wild Bill Hickok, the man Calamity
eventually married. His deep and rich voice was
just right for the solos and you could hear his
distinct tones even when the chorus were letting
The other main
character was Garry Kilby who played the first
focus of Calamity's heart, Lt Danny Gilmartin. He
was superb and if ever a role was created for
anyone in mind, it was for this perishing great
man with the deep voice, jutting chin and
For those not
sure of the plot, Calamity Jane and Bill Hickok
did exist in the latter days of the Wild, Wild
a Frontier legend as a hard-drinking, hard-riding
scout for the army. At a time when most women
were either in the saloons or keeping the
homestead, Calamity was fighting off Indians and
riding with the army, scouting ahead of the main
She lived in
the Deadwood area, and it was there she met and
eventually fell in love with Wild Bill Hickok.
Though they soon parted after the birth of a
daughter, Calamity is buried next to Wild Bill in
Deadwood, South Dakota. She died in 1903 of
pneumonia, brought on by her hard lifestyle and
apparent love of the booze. Part of her legend
was the ability to out drink and out cuss most
As for Wild
Bill, he was a part-time lawman, villain, and
showman and met his end during a poker game in
strengthened the legend with the film of the same
name as well as immortalising such songs as
Deadwood Stage, Windy City, Black Hills of Dakota
and the best of all, Secret Love.
All these songs
and more are in the stage version, and with a
huge company of 19 actors, singers and dancers,
the show is spectacular by any standards.
One of the
problems with such high-energy shows is the
ability to keep up the pace and on this
particular night, the action, though good, seemed
to flag. Even the mighty Toyah had taken to
nursing her voice as well as the bruises, and it
became a little obvious.
It did not
spoil the show, but some patrons expressed
disappointment on the way out. I don't believe
they meant it as a criticism of the players, but
more as a recognition that their expectations,
after all the hype and anticipation, were higher
than reality. Perhaps a note for producers to
take on board.
pre-viewed the show, I was a little late in doing
a review, and my apologies if you would have
liked to see it.
Calamity Jane is of a quality that guarantees it
will be on the circuit again. Hopefully next
time, the producers will take note of the reviews
and put in place a schedule that will be less
punishing on the company, giving them more time
As I said it
was a good show, but by putting the company under
such pressure, the value factor was less than an
audience paying full price for a ticket deserve.
Evening News: Shooting star Toyah rides to the
Jane at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
A vivid and
vivacious performance from Toyah Willcox gets
what could be a dead wood touring production of
Calamity Jane cracking along and puts it firmly
on the premier stage.
real pleasure to see this charming performer lift
her cast in such a generous and spirited manner.
And even if this production has been on tour for
a while, theres no clue that it might be
tired or lacking energy in any way.
Indeed, any of
Toyahs fans who have not already booked
their tickets should do so now. The real-life
Calamity Jane was a feisty woman who knew what
she wanted and how to get it. Toyah is not just
right for the part, but as she leaps around
singing her heart out, she makes it her
however, that this is not the original 1953 film
of Calamity Jane transferred to the stage with
Toyah pretending to be Doris Day.
The songs are
the same, of course. And they are well enough
sung to get those who know them already humming
along - although the company dont do enough
to make such joining in feel as if it is
obligatory. What they do, they do well, but
without ever making it feel as if they are
creating something special.
The plot is the
same too, with Calamity as the gun-totting guard
on the stagecoach to the wild-west town of
Deadwood. She thinks shes in love with
Lieutenant Danny from the local fort, and when
she finds him falling for cigarette card pin-up
girl Adelaide Adams, she goes off to Chicago to
persuade Adelaide to perform at Deadwood.
As this is a
1950s show, with 1950s ideals, Calamity clearly
has to sacrifice her sense of femininity to her
masculine profession. And as a woman, she has no
idea of what she really wants. She thinks she
loves the lieutenant. But deep down it is obvious
that shes really in love with Wild Bill
Toyah takes the
character and plays her for laughs, while
creating a woman who is genuinely naive.
Shes made no sacrifice, but simply has no
idea of how she appears to others - even though
she is desperate to be the centre of
If the overall
production - without taking account of Toyah - is
slightly lacklustre, it still contains some
stand-out moments. The mens rendition of
Adelaide, dancing around as if they were the
female chorus in a Busby Berkeley is a
And when Katie
Brown struts and purrs on the bar top of the
Deadwood Saloon, actress Kellie Ryan makes her
sexy, raunchy and generally provocative in a way
that would be difficult to surpass.
Ryan is not
quite as strong a singer as Toyah, but when Katie
and Calamity move in together at Calamitys
run-down ranch, their duets and routines work
effortlessly. Ryans duets with Dustin
Dubreuil as Lieutenant Danny are equally pretty
to listen to.
For a really
powerful voice, the show has to rely on Alasdair
Harvey in the role of Bill Hickok. Unfortunately,
the character is under-used in the show itself.
But when he does get to let rip, Harvey has a
rich, full voice.
and well constructed though this production may
be, without Toyah, it would certainly only
deserve three stars. But she does enough to make
Scotsman: Calamity Jane - 29th January 2003
Jane at the King's Theatre, Glasgow
Camp, camp and
more camp: depending on your point of view,
its either the best thing to happen to
western culture, or the sign that an art-form is
slipping into self-obsession. Both Calamity Jane
- the stage show of the 1953 movie starring Doris
Day - and William Luces One Helluva Life,
about the dying days of the life of Hollywood and
Broadway star John Barrymore, are shows about
showbusiness; and, as such, are full of the
knowing camp self-awareness that showbiz folk
love so much. But that, roughly speaking, is
where the similarity ends, if only because the
two shows handle that awareness so differently,
and with varying levels of energy.
In the decades
since the movie was released, Calamity Jane has
become a cult hit with the gay community.
Its not difficult to see why. On one hand,
theres the shows famously cheesy
1950s plot about how a butch little girl like
Calamity, who rides shotgun on the stagecoach to
her Dakota hometown of Deadwood, can find her
true destiny with the right man. On the other
hand, theres a subtext that any modern
audience can notice, as Calamity and Katie, the
ultra-feminine chanteuse from the Golden Garter
saloon, shack up and start home-making together
in Calamitys tumbledown cabin.
thing about Ed Cortiss production -
performed by a smallish cast of 15-plus live band
- is the high energy and good nature with which
it holds these two aspects of the show in
tension. Toyah Willcoxs amazingly athletic
Calamity is all on the wide-eyed, naive,
play-it-straight-and-give-it-hell side of the
I suppose some
might be irritated by the productions
refusal to send-up the original, but I liked this
Calamitys vivid effort to preserve the
tension between a longing for conventional
romance and a knowledge that the real world is
often otherwise, which gives this show its edge
of poignancy, and shapes the best of its
And if sheer
good humour and skill, plenty of fun musical
numbers and a rousing, well-choreographed finale
add up to a good night out, then Calamity Jane
certainly makes the grade.
Jane at the King's Theatre, Glasgow
Truth may be
stranger than fiction, but that doesn't mean it
makes the best stories. Originally written for
the 1953 film starring Doris Day, Calamity Jane
is a musical celebrating the adventures of
Midwestern frontierswoman Martha Jane Cannary,
who died 100 years ago this August.
but tender-hearted tomboy, she was known for her
deadeye aim and her habit of riding upside-down
in the saddle. She picked up her nickname by
saving the life of an injured officer during a
skirmish with Native Americans in Wyoming. She
held down a variety of jobs including
mule-skinner, outrider, prospector, Pony Express
rider, gambler and nurse. At one time she was the
sole female employee of the Northern Pacific
Railroad. After establishing a sexually ambiguous
menage with another woman, she unexpectedly wed
the legendary sharp-shooter Wild Bill Hickok -- a
roughneck more accustomed to consorting with
Theirs was a
turbulent but intense marriage, which finally
perished when Hickok took a bullet during a poker
All of which
should add up to a pretty rollicking tale -- and
the movie's popularity extends well beyond its
lesbian/camp following. Composer Sammy Fain is no
Gershwin and lyricist Paul Francis Webster no
Sondheim, but the songs are by turns rousing (The
Deadwood Stage), amusing (Careless With The
Truth), pretty (Black Hills Of Dakota) and
touching (the Oscar-winning Secret Love). But
where Calamity Jane falls down is in its lack of
adaptation by Charles K Freeman focuses on just
two episodes from Jane's colourful life. In the
first half, she makes a promise to the citizens
of windswept Deadwood, Kansas. She'll brighten up
their lives, she says, by bringing cigarette-card
sweetheart Adelaid Adams to town. But following a
mix-up in a Chicago theatre, she returns instead
with Adelaid's dresser Katie Brown, who proves a
poor substitute until she develops her own louche
style of performance. Then there's a sudden shift
in tone: the second act is a four-way tug of love
between Jane, Wild Bill, Katie and cavalry
officer Lieutenant Gilmartin. This is resolved in
the tritest way imaginable and then the show
is not without its charms, but it's as subtle as
a bullwhip and as emotionally engaging as a bowl
of beans. So a full house on a Tuesday night is
quite hard to account for ... unless you take two
things into account. The first is that
undemanding entertainment is popular. This isn't
the ritziest musical that ever rode through town,
but Ed Curtis's production is polished,
colourfully designed and well lit, with a live
orchestra and a very able supporting cast -- led
by newcomer Kellie Ryan as Katie and Scotsman
Alasdair Harvey as Bill.
The second --
which can't have escaped anyone's notice -- is
that the show stars Toyah Willcox, lisping
punk-pop heroine of the early 1980s. The speech
impediment is long gone; replaced by a bubbly
confidence, though I did expect more charisma in
such a feisty role. I can't recommend Calamity
Jane as gripping or innovative, but it seems
Toyah in buckskins can still lasso an audience.
Jane at the King's Theatre, Glasgow
has to be made of rubber ... for there is no way
any real, flesh and bone 44-year-old woman could
withstand the battering she takes on stage as the
flung around, hoisted up to dangle from assorted
bits of scenery, tripped up, shot at and jumped
on, all in the name of entertainment.
At one point,
judging by the collective gasp, everyone in my
row were convinced she had smacked her head off a
chair, but the beaming smile didn't falter for a
Day's pseudo-macho Calamity, this is the real
Toyah is a
fizzing bundle of energy. a wildcat hell-bent on
sharp-shooting and hard-drinking the men out of
Still it's just
as well she has nailed the physical side of her
character, as her voice never carried it.
Don't get me
wrong, I'm a big fan of 80s pop Toyah, it's just
that Musical Theatre Toyah doesn't have the
awe-inspiring vocal ability of other actresses in
None of the
singers were outstanding on the opening night,
with the exception of Hamilton-born Alasdair
Harvey as Calamity's sparring partner Wild Bill
But it didn't
matter, as we were all having such a
whip-crackaway time anyway.
And the story
rattles along at a fine pace - apart from the
really irritating scene changes, where various
characters dance about with bits of scenery for
no apparent reason.
Fleming: Calamity Jane - 22nd January 2003
Jane at the King's Theatre, Glasgow
'Didn't I tell
you 'bout the time when I was a scout for the
army? I saved a major once. Pulled four arrows
out of his hide, poison ones...He sure was a
brave Major. He gave me my name, "You're a
great one to have around in a time of
calamity," That's what he said, that's what
he said!' - Calamity Jane.
watched the famous film version, and heard little
of the soundtrack, I wasn't sure what to expect
from the legendary tale of Calamity Jane. I can
honestly admit, despite being a huge Toyah fan, I
couldn't imagine the musical being as superb as
it certainly is. And it is superb, incredible,
and every other superlative you care to mention.
The show, a feel-good fest, has been constructed
with so much care and attention to detail, even
the set changes, though seamless and
well-executed, were mini performances that
The score too,
even to these fresh ears, has some truly
uplifting songs, particularly 'Black Hills Of
Dakota', 'A Woman's Touch', 'Higher Than A Hawk'
and 'Secret Love'. Prepare to be humming those
for weeks after...
really does capture that Wild West feel too and
the sunset backdrop is almost worth a visit
alone. The entire cast are excellent, great
accents, singing, interaction, it's obvious that
they all get along well, they really do seem a
happy gang of cowboys and girls. Aladair Harvey
(from Hamilton, just outside of Glasgow)and
Kellie Ryan, in particular, as Wild Bill Hickok
and Katie Brown, almost steal the show.
But not quite.
This is Toyah's show. Toyah IS Calamity Jane. She
puts so much into the role that even a seasoned
fan, for the duration of the show, will put aside
that it's TW up there. Toyah really does become
Jane for those two hours onstage; the swagger,
the attitude, and the bravado. She is at the
heart of almost every scene and each facial
expression, gesture and nuance is captivating.
Jane climbs every available piece of scenery,
hangs from the rafters, is thrown and swung, yet
Toyah rarely stops even to draw breath. Little
wonder she is loking so fit just now.
from macho cowgirl to fully fledged woman in
love, is, not only, a bumpy ride, but an awesome
two hours of fun, laughter, tears and joy. Toyah
puts her heart and soul into playing Calamity
Jane and last night she performed 'Secret Love'
with enough passion and tenderness to melt even
the toughest Glasgow heart.
I'd say Jane is
easily the best role of Toyah's stage career,
possibly, if you'll excuse the cliché, the role
she was born to play. I can't imagine any other
actress playing Jane half as well, or enjoying
being Jane half as much.
Yep, Toyah IS
Calamity Jane - Please don't miss out!
Jane - 18th
Jane at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
ensemble performance but a huge portion of
success has to be owed to the breath-takingly
energetic performance from Toyah Willcox as Jane:
frankly I don't know how she sustains the pace.
And whether she's jumping on a bar counter, being
tossed in a blanket or swinging upside-down from
rafters Wilcox's Jane is so engaging she charms
you out of your seat. This Jane seems to take a
naïve joy in the world around her from which her
extravagant story-telling stems quite naturally.
Importantly this vivacious character is not
subjugated into a girly, mawkish marriage at the
end. Wilcox appears in an extremely elegant
trouser suit: you sense her marriage to Bill
Hickok will be a partnership. Full marks to
Wilcox and director Ed Curtis for offering this
more acceptable ending to us.
Harvey's Hickok is a good pairing for this Jane.
He's tough, no doubt about it, but not
ridiculously macho: we never lose sight of a real
person. Harvey has a warm and friendly singing
voice, too, specially in his lower registers.
Jane's and Bill's revelation about their mutual
love is a danger area, a potential trap of
clockwork plotting and comedic convenience. But
the pair pull it off superbly letting us believe
it's the most natural thing in the world.
It's a pleasure
to hear so many famous songs in context, none
more so than Black Hills Of Dakota, a welcome
quiet moment before the final run, Dustin
Dubreuil's (Lt Gilmartin) dark, rich voice
suiting it perfectly.
is directed with welcome wit by Ed Curtis who has
cleansed the show of sentimental overload (I love
the scene where Jane tends Gilmartin's wound). A
great partnership with designer Simon Higlett who
has created a flexible set with humour (little
houses to sit on lovely.)
Birmingham: Calamity Jane - 15th November 2002
Jane at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
is a star vehicle, it's a musical which stands or
falls on the performance of it's central
character, and while Toyah Willcox proved to be a
highly athletic and animated 'Calamity', she
lacked the emotional vulnerability and vocal
range the part requires.
however, plenty to enjoy about the production.
The musical tells of her exploits as a
hard-drinking, gunslinging frontierswoman who's
taught a few home truths by the man she
South Dakota is created by using a stylised,
versatile set which includes excellent lighting
effects, and an imaginative use of models and
played by Toyah Willcox, is a rough and ready
tomboy who loves spinning tall tales. I would
have preferred her to have looked a little more
dirty and scruffy, as frontier towns probably
lacked decent laundries. But she certainly
bounced around the set with great enthusiasm
using the bar and rafters of Miller's saloon to
Hickok, Calamity's sparring partner (and husband)
is played with real panache by Alasdair Harvey,
whose singing was, for me, the highlight of the
show. Indeed praise must go to the whole company
for the ensemble songs and dance routines.
favourite was the number Adelaid, which featured
the men of Deadwood mooning over a cigarette card
idol, Adelaid Adams. Their harmony work and
choreographed pinnings, complete with
glitter-ball lighting effect made me smile.
because the rest of the cast sang so well that
Toyah's vocal range seemed limited in comparison.
She coped with songs like Careless with the
Truth, and was fine with her lower register but
seemed to have trouble changing gear for the
higher notes, Secret Love proving the most
difficult and least successful of her
the girl who is transformed from downtrodden maid
to singing vamp, complete with fishnets and
scarlet corset was confidently played by Kellie
Ryan, and Dustin Dubreuil looked every inch the
dashing Army Lieutenant.
The feel of a
wild west frontier town, where the fastest gun
made the law, and civilisation was a railroad and
coach ride away was certainly created by this
production. It was, sadly, just a little lacking
Performance - 6th November 2002
Jane at the New Theatre, Hull
whip-cracking, all singing, gun slinging heroine
- and sometimes she can be a bit grumpy when she
doesn't get her own way.
But for all her
foibles, Calamity Jane wins our hearts with her
tomboy style and mean line in insults.
fans will remember the huge white smile and
beautiful voice of Doris Day, when she first
brought the character to life on the Hollywood
screen alongside Howard Keel as Wild Bill Hicock.
But the surprisingly diminutive Toyah Willcox
proved more than a match in a hugely energetic
performance on stage at Hull New Theatre as part
of a national tour.
The star, who
had hits in the early 80s with songs such as It's
A Mystery, apparently does three hours of
aerobics each day. And she'd certainly need it to
be fit enough for this role. Calamity not only
swings from the rafters while singing at the top
of her voice, she rides on the top of the
Deadwood stagecoach and wrestles with her cowboy
friends before heading out to do battle with an
Indian war party.
she plays is based on real-life Wild West cowgirl
Martha Jane Cannary, who lived in the 1900s and
was nicknamed Calamity Jane because trouble
followed her everywhere.
first night saw the Wild West brought to life in
true cowboy style, complete with sarsaparilla and
frilly-skirted dancing girls. The tale begins
when a somewhat over-confident Calamity boasts to
her Deadwood friends that she can coax a huge
singing star all the way from the windy city of
Chicago to perform for them.
unsurprisingly, all does not go according to
plan, and Calam ends up with egg on her face when
the regulars at the Golden Garter saloon realise
her "star" is not quite what was
promised. However, her bruised ego is soothed by
her newfound friend, aspiring singing star Katie
Brown, and they soon set up home together.
All is calm -
that is until Calam, who has undergone something
of a transformation under Katie's feminine
influence, realises she now has a rival for the
affections of the dashing Lieutenant Danny
Gillmartin and fast-drawing cowboy Wild Bill
It's a pretty
good tale, but that's not what makes Calamity
Jane so engaging - it's the colourful characters,
thigh slapping dance routines and cracking tunes
- including the Oscar winning Secret Love.
in a dynamic performance as Calamity, a character
whose unbelievably tall tales of courageous acts
and endless streams of insults only make her more
supported by an excellent cast in a show which is
guaranteed to put a smile on anyone's face.
BBCi Hull: Calamity Jane - 3rd November 2002
Jane at the New Theatre, Hull
was a hard-drinking, rough-living wild woman of
the west, yet beneath the dusty buckskins, she
had a sensitive and sentimental nature, nicknamed
Calamity because it followed her
played the title role in Hull. Calamity Jane is a
stagecoach driver and professional gambler. A
real tomboy. She thinks shes in love with
Lt Danny Gilmartin, that is, until she sees Wild
Bill Hickok (her old friend) in a different
Throw in some
bar room brawls, jealousy, gun-totting cowboys
and saloon girls and you have an energetic, high
voltage show that raced from start to
Having not seen
Toyah Willcox on stage before, I had no idea what
to expect from either her performance or the
show. But, as soon as the curtain went up, it was
obvious this was going to be a very special
opening number, Deadwood Stage involving the
entire cast, all of whom put their heart and soul
into it, to the rip-roaring finale, there
wasnt one person in the audience at the New
Theatre in Hull who was not on their feet at the
end, in awe of the magic that they had just
cheer, was saved for the diminutive Toyah
Willcox. She has proved herself a million miles
away from the punk diva she portrayed in the
80's, singing and dancing with such passion and
mention to Kellie Ryan (Katie Brown). She
recently graduated from Arts and Educational
College and this was one of her first,
professional performances. I think she has a big
future ahead of her. She was excellent in the
part and had a very strong voice.
(Wild Bill) and Dustin Dubrevil (Lt Danny
Gilmartin) were both outstanding, with vocal
performances to rival anyone in any West End
is a fantastic night out for all the family. I
cannot recommend it highly enough.
Calamity Jane - 11th October 2002
Jane at the Opera House, Manchester
This story of
the Wild West, when men are men and women are
men, has a lot to recommend it. It is good family
entertainment and you willingly suspend your
disbelief as it bowls along like desert
was perfect as Calamity in a show, which is so
littered with popular tunes that it is hard to
stop yourself from singing along. Toyah has such
a distinctive voice that is a world away from
Doris Day, but because of this, you are not
tempted to make comparisons. Her Calamity is more
believable, she makes the part her own, with such
energy and perkiness that she carries you along.
Her erstwhile friend, the hard-drinking
gunslinger, Wild Bill Hickok, is played with
style and with an excellent singing voice by
Alasdair Harvey. He is manly, strong and sings
with conviction. Kellie Ryan as Katie Brown is
excellent; her acting and singing are first rate,
and she has a peppy style which suits the part so
The stage set
is over clever and tends to impose itself on the
action and the cast, and the silly little houses
dont come off. The sound on first night was
poor. The production has fussy directing at the
expense of content. The stage is underused and
all the characters grouped in corners.
chorus are good, this Deadwood City has too many
women in it and far too few men. It seems
peculiar that the men are yearning for an actress
from Chicago when there are so many lovely women
already in town. However all these things do not
really detract from a rip-roaringly good night of
musical theatre with an energising feel. I, for
one, enjoyed myself.
By Brenda Kean
Evening News: Toyah is whipping up a real whirlwind
8th October 2002
Jane at the Opera House, Manchester
blown in from the windy city - that
whip-cracking, pistol-packing, hell-raising
whirlwind of a gal. In this new production of
Calamity Jane, immortalised on screen by Doris
Day amazingly 50 years ago, diminutive Toyah
Willcox gets to show how it should be done.
Hers is a
feisty, high-octane performance. She leaps off
the stage coach, climbs on to the rafters, gets
tossed in a blanket - and comes back for more.
Yet you know she's soft-centred enough to fall in
love with Wild Bill Hickock.
After all, this
is what happened with the real Jane and Bill back
in those gold rush days - and they lie buried
next to each other in Deadwood still.
Curtis has put together a lively production,
although he has a tendency to get people to sing
lying down - never a good position for a singer.
The dancers look athletic when given the chance,
but are underused.
big barn of a set, with the illuminated cow-town
in the distance, has atmosphere - and a realistic
stage coach. James Whiteside's imaginative
lighting gives us memorable skies and
But the driving
force of this show is Toyah herself - and she is
well-supported. Alasdair Harvey as Wild Bill has
real presence and a fine voice, Kellie Ryan makes
a convincing Katie Brown, the novice saloon
entertainer who feminises Calamity, and Dustin
Dubreuil is a heart-throb lieutenant.
Adam Goodman, after early sound and balance
problems, keeps his band bubbling nicely along -
and those great Fain and Webster songs are as
catchy as ever.
Staffordshire: Calamity Jane - 5th October 2002
Jane at Regent Theatre, Hanley, Stoke On Trent
and Doris Day went together, well, like a horse
and carriage - until Tuesday night at the Regent
Theatre in Hanley when Toyah Willcox took to the
stage as the rootin' tootin' gun totin' larger
than life cowgirl from Deadwood.
This is an
action packed, fast paced story of life in the
Wild West in 1876 when it was easier to get shot
than to buy a drink!
Toyah takes the
character of Calamity Jane a stage further than
Doris Day's fairly sweet image in the 1953 film
She plays her
as a strong-minded woman who loves to prove that
she can out gun and out whip all the men in
Deadwood - with the exception of Wild Bill
Hickock (brilliantly played by Alasdair Harvey)
who she just about considers an equal, and the
handsome army lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Dustin
Dubreuil) who she thinks she is in love
is full of classic songs - Blackhills of Dakota,
Secret Love, Windy City and, of course, The
Deadwood Stage and Toyah whip-cracks her way
through them all with tremendous energy and
vitality. She said in a recent interview on BBC
Radio Stoke that she loves the role and it
set design is inspired and James Whitesides
lighting effects as he gives us vast expanses of
western sky are a delight.
A nearly full
house gave the show a rousing welcome to the
Potteries and I am sure I was not the only member
of the audience that left that night singing 'Oh
The Deadwood Stage...'
By Su Ashford
Sentinel: Calamity Jane - 3rd October 2002
Jane at Regent Theatre, Hanley, Stoke On Trent
brash with the wistful, this musical began life
in 1953 as a hugely popular film starring Doris
Day and Howard Keel. Calamity Jane features a
host of memorable songs and tunes, including
Black Hills Of Dakota and Oscar-winning Secret
Love, but the success of the show depends upon
the casting of our diminutive heroine, Calamity
highly diverse, career as stage and screen
actress and recording star enables her to inhabit
the lead role with a rip-roaring interpretation.
Dustin Dubreuk gives a suitably dashing
performance as gallant cavalry officer Lieutenant
Danny Gilmartin and Alasdair Harvey is, by turns,
a chauvinist and a droll dandy as Wild Bill
sub-plot sees Jane journeying to the big city of
Chicago, intent on bringing top entertainer
Adelaid Adams back to her backwater town to
delight its unwashed denizens but mistakenly
returning with her maid.
Another star of
the evening is the ingenious combination of sets.
Rob Cope: Calamity Jane - 2nd October 2002
Jane at Regent Theatre, Hanley, Stoke On Trent
It is a very
brave thing to tackle a role so synonamous with a
legend like Doris Day. This is the first
professional tour of Calamity Jane for 20 years
(I think the last one featured Barbara Windsor as
CJ) and so there are plenty of high expectations
from the theatre world in general, not to mention
legions of Toyah's admirers.
In case there
is anyone who doesn't know the story it centres
around the tomboy cowgirl Calamity who has a
repuation for tall stories concerning her
exploits killing indians and the like. When the
local show bar owner hires an act named Francis
Fryer the town folk of Deadwood revolt when they
descover it isn't a buxom beauty but a song and
dance man ! In the heat of the moment Calamity
promises she will bring back the vaudeville star
Adelaide Adams from Chicago to perform in
Deadwood. Off then she sets for the big city, and
finds Adelaide Adams maid Katie Brown posing in
her mistresses costumes backstage. Mistaking
Katie for Adelaide, she invites her back to
perform in Deadwood. Keeping up the deception,
Katie - who has always wanted to be a singer -
accepts. Naturally her first appearance in
Deadwood is a disaster and she owns up to being
plain old Katie. But she wins over the hearts of
the towns folk and they forgive her and place her
on a pedestal as Deadwood's own star.
However, trouble brews when she falls in love
with handsome cavalry lieutenant Danny Gilmartin
on whom Calamity also has set her sights. It
takes the intervention of Wild Bill Hickok to
help save Katie from the wrath of Calamity
The songs are
timeless: The Deadwood Stage, It's Harry I'm
Planning To Marry, Windy City, Higher Than A
Hawk, Black Hills Of Dakota and the Oscar winning
Secret Love performed with great panache by the
10 piece orchestra.The 19 strong cast are all
exceptional, with West End star Alasdair Harvey
bringing his mighty voice to Wild Bill Hickok and
Kellie Ryan provides just the right amount of
comedy and pathos as Katie Brown.
But what of
Toyah herself. It has to be said that vocally she
can't match the torch singing of Doris Day. Her
voice darts between 'chest' and 'head' as she
goes for the higher notes. What really makes this
her show, is the amazing physicality of the
piece. She is completely amazing firing at
Indians, cracking whips, being thrown up into the
air, wrestling Wild Bill... She gives 110%
from her very first entrance, after a while
everyone in the audience I'm sure forgot all
about Miss Day as Toyah melted the hearts of
everyone. She may be tiny but she sure can fill a
stage with her personality. And what an actress.
She manages to portray every emotion plus adding
a fine comedic touch to many scenes, seemingly
with ease. She certainly looks amazing too, her
long blonde locks making her look nowhere near
her 43 years. Beautiful is certainly not too
strong a word.
Sure there are
gripes from this seasoned theatre goer. The first
half is over long (1hr 25 mins) and the pace
slows mid way so perhaps some cuts are due. But
judging by the reaction from the first night
audience in Stoke they thoroughly approve of the
production, the biggest cheers of the night were
for Toyah's walk down to the footlights. This is
without doubt going to be rated as one of Toyah's
biggest theatre successes for sure. Well done to
all concerned and particularly Toyah for proving
that once again the minx can defy her critics
even when tackling one of the all time great
musical roles. Yeee haaa !
By Rob Cope
Jane - 21st
Jane at Derngate Theatre, Northampton
is a rip roarin musical, boasting
unforgettable numbers, including The Deadwood
Stage, Black Hills of Dakota and Windy City.
Incredibly, the larger-than-life fast-shooting
heroine who prefers male attire and never looks
before she leaps into the trouble that inspired
her moniker, is actually based on a real
frontierswoman. And yes folks, Wild Bill Hickock,
the man in whom she meets her match, is for real
the programme, Calamity went to great lengths to
demonstrate that she posed no threat when she
rode through Indian country.
Its a pity then that the musical shows
signs of outdated political incorrectness when
her (admittedly untrue) boast of killing thirty
Injuns, soon after she first appears
perched atop the Deadwood Stage, is played for
laughs. It makes the lyric beautiful Indian
country that I love feel distinctly uncomfortable
Of course you
could argue that its a period piece, but
there are other ways in which at times it strikes
the wrong note for me. Why do the only visible
female population of Deadwood appear to have
almost nothing to wear but tatty though
undeniably sexy underwear? Kellie Ryan
makes a delicious wannabe singer, but it seems a
shame that the acme of her ambitions is to
titillate dozy male customers at Deadwood's
saloon. And I find the number A Womans
Touch a touch too cute.
played a character in farces, whose catch phrase
was Oh Calamity! Id be a real
killjoy to pinch it to describe the production.
Toyah Willcoxs Jane is a fierce bundle of
blonde ambition, banishing images of Doris Day in
the film, though she does have to hit the high
notes running. It would be churlish not to
applaud the whole cast for matching her
high-energy performance from Alasdair
Harveys amused and amusing Bill to the
committed chorus. A live orchestra (musical
direction, Peter White) adds to the excitement.
And the show gets off to a good start with Simon
Higletts miniature Wild West Town revealed
behind giant swinging wooden doors.
combination of the failure of the sound system at
the midweek matinee (so it was hard to tell if
Simon Whitehorn's sound design was at fault too)
and rather unimaginative direction by Ed Curtis
and choreography by Craig Revel Horwood
ultimately made the production seem uninspired.
Perhaps this ones just not worth reviving,
despite the great tunes.
Express: No Calamity for Toyah - 19th September 2002
Jane at Derngate Theatre, Northampton
Yeee-Ha! - Book
a seat on the Deadwood stage and head wild wild
west for a colourful cowboy classic.
(Toyah Willcox) is a rough and ready tomboy who
enjoys shooting, fighting and a fiery
relationship with wise-cracking gambler
Wild Bill Hickock (Alasdair Harvey).
despairs of his friend's unladylike behaviour,
Calamity sees no reason to change her ways -
until her old sparring partner teaches her an
important lesson in love and friendship.
Fans of the
classic film version won't be disappointed in
this latest adaptation, which combines
high-energy performances with toe-tapping tunes
and dazzling dance routines.
Harvey are excellent, with the comic interplay
and true friendship of their characters cleverly
highlighted in the hugely enjoyable duet, I Can
Do Without You, whileamongst a superb supportng
cast, Kellie Ryan and Phil Ormerod are also
worthy of special mention.
The only slight
dsappointment is in Calamity's rendition of
Secret Love. As one used to the famous Doris Day
version, I found Miss Willcox's voice wasn't
quite powerful enough to do full justice to the
is a minor quibble, as this stunning production
effortlessly captures the warmth, vibrancy and
'feel-good-factor' of the movie, ensuring that,
like me, you'll be leaving the theatre
By Trudi Buck.