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London Theatre Guide: Toyah - The Big Interview - 26th June 2003
In a year which has seen her shot back into the public awareness courtesy of a stint on reality TV show I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Toyah Willcox is now leading the cast of wild west musical  Calamity Jane, opening on June 26 at the Shaftesbury. Matthew Amer caught up with her to get some advice on how a whip should properly be cracked away… 

2003 has been a year of resurgence for the diminutive diva best known for her days as the fiery princess of punk. A short break in the middle of the Calamity Jane tour gave her time to adventure into the Australian outback to be watched over 24/7 by an avid viewing public waiting for the next time a plastic snake, fake spider or Anthony Worral Thompson might drive her to shout the immortal words ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here.’ Now she’s back on Blighty’s fair shores and heading to the West End faster than a speeding wagon train.

"We’ve added a bit more b******s to it!"

The gun-toting, whip-cracking, rip-roaring  musical has been touring the country since last year with only a short break for Willcox’s antipodean adventure. The show was well received by regional audiences, but, not resting on their cowboy themed laurels the cast have “taken it up a notch” for the West End opening. “We’ve kind of revamped it so it’s more ‘West End’ and we’ve put big dance numbers in. We’ve added a bit more b******s to it!”

Willcox describes the comic cowboy caper as “a play about 20 characters who are all quite deviant in their ways. If you took any of them out of their community and put them in New York or Chicago they’d all get arrested within an hour.” The eponymous deviant, the unfortunately monikered Calamity Jane [what kind of parent names their child Calamity!], risks her reputation by promising to bring a sexy singing sensation to Dakota’s Golden Garter Saloon. After an unfortunate case of mistaken identity and some hilarious hi-jinks she delivers the goods, but this is only the start of the fun. 

Calamity Jane was made famous by the 1950s film starring Doris Day which won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Day is considered one of the great screen icons, so surely this puts a weight of pressure on Willcox’s petite shoulders? “No, because Doris Day is, I think, very much a period piece and what we’re doing is very much about human nature. Our production is not saccharine sweet, it’s really very ballsy. There are no sequins in our production whatsoever!”

"There are no sequins in our production whatsoever!"

This anti-glitter stand that Willcox takes, which is sure to aggravate one group of activists or another – The Army for the Liberation of Tinsel? – is demonstrative of her desire for a particular type of female role. In the past she has unforgettably played Mad in the seminal punk movie Jubilee and Monkey, who was not hairy and didn’t eat bananas, in Quadrophenia. “I only look for strong, female roles. You’re never going to see me as a romantic, young heroine; I relate to unusual heroines. Because Calamity Jane is such an oddball you can do so much with the character. You can go in places that you wouldn’t dare go with Ophelia.” It is fair to say that any theatregoer would be surprised to see a whiskey drinking, gun-toting, 10-gallon-hat-wearing Ophelia going ever so slightly mad while Hamlet propped up the bar and watched some showgirls.

As well as possessing mental and spiritual strength, the Calamity in this production also has to be very strong physically. The show has a real get-up-and-go vibrancy about it with big dance numbers and an extremely active cast that the Duracell bunny would be pressed to keep up with. “It’s like running a marathon for two hours. It’s the kind of part where I can’t let people talk to me during the show because if I’m distracted I either hurt myself or I’m not on stage in time. We’re keeping chiropractors in business around the country.” 

Willcox’s penchant for the physical things in life was one aspect of her character that shone brightly while she was doing I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Sadly for Willcox, who was geared up to do scary/revolting/utterly undesirable tasks each day, footballing favourite and King of Gladiators John Fashanu got to do the lions share of the tasks often wearing eel helmets, walking rickety rope bridges or swimming with Great White Sharks while wearing a tuna thong [that last one is not remotely true, but it would make good television]. When Willcox was given a chance to get her hands dirty it was in the most repulsive manner having to pull meal tokens out of a stinking bog full of rotten debris. Admittedly this is not everyone’s idea of fun and most would not want to put themselves through it, but this is just where the action woman in Willcox shone through. “I love anything physically challenging, it suits my sense of humour.”  Willcox actually asked I’m A Celebrity’s producers, at a meeting entirely unrelated to the show, whether she could take part in the show.

"We’re keeping chiropractors in business around the country."

In stark contrast to last year’s Australian escapade, which saw numerous members of the ‘cast’ nearly come to blows, this year’s merry band of celebrity survivors decided to tackle the task as a team. So strong was their bond that they even rebelled against the Gods of television, often called producers, when they thought they were not being treated fairly. At the time they had not realised that the whole point of sending a group of celebrities into the jungle was for the warm hearted public to see them suffer – it seems unlikely that they were ever going to be treated fairly. Still, the celebs held strong in the face of adversity. “We just thought, ‘we’re not in here to lose our dignity, we’re here to actually try and achieve something for our charities’. I think it was a remarkable privilege to be asked to do it. I’ve got no regrets about it at all.”

Indeed, Willcox does not regret many things, preferring to look to the future rather than dwell on the past. With such an eclectic and eccentric past that includes a punk/pop career, acting at the National Theatre and being ‘the voice’ of the Teletubbies it would seem a shame to forget about it completely, but Willcox is a woman driven by ambition; even the present does not hold her attention for long as she admits she “only looks to the future rather than enjoy[ing] the moment.” But what of the future? It would have been hard to predict that the actress who played Monkey in Quadrophenia would later present shows about differing spiritual outlooks on life or that a young punk setting the music world alight would ever play Calamity Jane in the West End.  If Willcox has her way, it will involve a little less work and a lot more play. “I just work and work and work. It’s something I’ve been trying to address, along with my husband, for the last two years. Both of us are complete workaholics and keep forgetting that actually life isn’t about work, it’s about downtime.” Never a truer word spoken, but one wonders whether Willcox will ever slow down and take time to enjoy the moment rather than looking to the future. What does the future hold? It’s a mystery. 

This Is Blackpool: Toyah Triumphs Over calamity - 5th June 2003
It's no mystery why Toyah's never out of work. This performing powerhouse barely draws breath before whip-cracking on with one project after another. 

The former punk chick -- still loved for her lisp -- was this week riding the Deadwood Stage to Blackpool Opera House to play romantic tomboy Calamity Jane. 

"I love Blackpool. I just think it's so much fun," she says. 

"I especially love Blackpool in the winter. I like having the piers and the front to myself." 

She won't have much time to dally on the Prom this week, though. Calamity Jane opened in Blackpool on Tuesday -- the last week of an extensive nationwide tour -- and then Toyah heads straight to London's West End for a three month run, starting June 12. 

The show is packed with well-known numbers -- Deadwood Stage, Secret Love, Windy City, The Black Hills of Dakota to name but a few. 

But this is no tribute to the cute 1953 film version starring Doris Day, Toyah says. 

"Modern audiences have moved on a long way from the 1950s film. We are a very young company. Our production isn't quaint, it's very boisterous!" 

Toyah Willcox (her real name) was born in Kings Heath, Birmingham on May 18, 1958. 

She attended drama school at 17, joined the National Theatre a year later, and got her first big break in Derek Jarman's 1977 classic punk film, Jubilee. 

A theatrical all-rounder -- "I always wanted to sing and act" -- she then formed her own band, enjoying hits with It's A Mystery and I Wanna Be Free and releasing countless albums. Her latest, Velvet Lined Shell, went on sale last month. 

Her extensive film and theatre CV includes Quadrophenia and appearances alongside Katherine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier. And she plays fertility expert Dr Johnson in forthcoming comedy film, The Most Fertile Man In Ireland. 

Not surprising, then, that she also holds an Honorary Doctorate in Arts and Media from Birmingham University and has 'worked every day for 25 years'. 

"I don't have preferences in my work. If I had preferences I couldn't be so diverse," she explains. 

And that's why you'll never catch Toyah 'just resting'. Whip crack away! 

The Guide: Less marshmallow but that's no calamity - 16th April 2003
The publicity blurb for Calamity Jane says Toyah Willcox’s approach to the title role will re-define the character for a contemporary audience. So the first question has to be: 

Toyah, the actress who became a punk rocker and then an actress again, initially laughs at the blurb and then offers a serious reply.

‘Women have come a long way since the 1950s,’ she says. ‘What we have inherited is a film many generations love, and that’s what we are doing – the same love story and the same music.

‘But the film was written to celebrate the role of women in the second world war and we have had to address the marshmallow element.’

Toyah points out that Jane was based on a real woman. Martha Jane Cannary, born in 1852, dressed, drank and fought like a man, although she was prone to exaggerate her exploits.

Whether she had a romantic relationship with Wild Bill Hickock is unknown, but the story goes that she made a deathbed request to be buried beside him.

Toyah says: ‘She was a pioneer, and we have kind of married historical truth with the film to make something that’s far grittier but still has charm.

‘I think we have done the right thing because we are getting a tremendous age-range in our audiences and are giving them something they can recognise.

The suspicion is that the character appeals to Toyah’s natural rebelliousness, and she goes along with that.

‘It’s not wanting to be part of the norm. But it’s also about adventure, which appeals to everyone.’

Calamity Jane is her first musical since she did Cabaret 20 years ago – ‘apart from Peter Pan which is a bit different,’ she says.

‘Calamity Jane is more like a play with music and I can excel as an actress rather than a musician. It is about comic timing, and that appeals to me.’

The production, which also features Alasdair Harvey as Bill Hickock and is directed by Ed Curtis, is choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood.

He performed the same function on Chichester Festival Theatre’s 2001 hit musical, My One and Only, which successfully transferred to the West End.

Toyah says he has left a huge, almost irreverent imprint on the present production, bringing humour and sensuality to it.

Southern Daily Echo/This Is Southampton: Calamity Jane - 7th April 2003
After leaving her pink-haired punk rock days back in the Eighties. Toyah Willcox talks to Sally Churchward about her new venture, Calamity Jane...

The idea an '80s punk icon dancing and singing her way through a role made famous by Doris Day might seem a bit unlikely.

But Toyah considers playing the title role in Calamity Jane to be part of the liberating process of getting older.

"I think when you're older, and especially being an older woman, people just let you be," says the 44-year-old.

"I don't have to worry about being a sex symbol or what the latest trends are - at least that's how I feel.

"I don't feel that I'm expected to be a fashion victim at my age and that's a really wonderful, liberating feeling, because it means I can do things as mad as Calamity Jane and people aren't offended by my taking a complete change in direction, so I think I'm in a really lucky position."

But Toyah hasn't always had such a laid-back attitude towards her appearance.

Back in the early '80s, when she was racking up charts hits such as It's a Mystery, I Want to be Free and Thunder in the Mountains, she would hardly have considered leaving the house without first spraying half a can of Elnette at her head and loading up on the eyeshadow.

And it's an image that's lasted, even if she's left her warpaint long behind.

"It's almost like looking at a daughter," she says of pictures of herself taken back in the early '80s.

"I don't think about it that often and I certainly don't reminisce.

"But at the same time I'm very proud of my past and very grateful for it because it's allowed me to do what I do today and I intended those images to last a long time.

"I wanted to create iconic images and worldwide they have sustained.

"Ironically, in certain countries, those images are up everywhere but they don't know who they are of.

"I had a friend come back from Peru the other day and she said my face was plastered everywhere and I said, `Well, that's funny because I never released anything in Peru,' so the images have persevered very, very well."

And it's not just the images that have lasted.

Toyah is celebrating her 25th anniversary of being in show business this year. She's marking the occasion with the release of a mini-album, Velvet Lined Shell, on her own record label.

"I recorded it while I was on tour with Calamity Jane, that's why it's a mini-album," she explains.

"It's just a celebratory piece for the fans, really. It's exciting but I'm realistic about it. 

"It's just a piece to celebrate 25 years in the industry I'm not looking to change the world."

But even if Toyah is releasing the album for her fans, rather than to set the music industry alight again, there's no denying that her music career is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Her albums are being re-released and she has found herself voted as the most influential woman in punk by several American bands.

"It's taken me by surprise," she says of the burgeoning interest in her music career.

"I mean, on the front cover of NME two weeks ago I was named along with Siouxsie Sioux as an influential act to American females and I don't consider myself to be in that side of the business any more.

"I record and release my own material on my own label but it's just a small cottage industry, and I think it's really, really nice that new generations have picked up on the old stuff, because it certainly hasn't been pushed in their faces - I'm really quite laid back about it."

But would she consider trying to top the singles chart again?

"No, I don't even think about it," she says.

I make the mistake of asking if this is because it would be too much hard work.

"Don't put words in my mouth," she responds abruptly.

"I don't even think about it, I've got other things to do."

Toyah might not want to talk about her reasons for not entering the music industry again, but she's more than happy to chat away about her current project, Calamity Jane, which opens at The Mayflower, Southampton, on Tuesday.

"Calamity Jane is a role I've always loved because I remember the film - it's one of those wonderful Saturday afternoon rainy day films.

"I've always thought that she was an interesting heroine - a woman who dresses and behaves like a man," she says enthusiastically.

"There's just so much scope in that she's great fun to watch and great fun to play.

"And she's a real woman - she really existed.

"She lived and dressed as a man in the frontier land of America in around 1860 and she had a phenomenally dangerous life.

"It's exciting to play someone who really existed."

But although she loves the show, Toyah has found some parts of it difficult to play.

"Calamity Jane isn't a politically correct piece.

"What I'm finding very hard, especially at the moment with the war going on, is Calamity, refers to battles all the time - she fantasises about being in battle and I decided to play those parts deadly seriously because I didn't want any humour in those moments," she says.

"And it's done nothing but add to the poignancy of the story, which is about how love will out."

Calamity Jane might fantasise about wars, but what does Toyah think about them?

"I just want everyone to come home safely, on both sides," she says of the current war in Iraq.

"I wish the baddies would drop down dead and all the innocent people would be left to have good lives.

"I just don't like war and I wish in this day and age we could pinpoint the despot and everyone could get on with their lives on both sides - I think it's utterly miserable."

EDP24: Calamity Jane fizzing with Toyah - 17th March 2003
My last encounter with Toyah was a very different affair. A hot, bouncing, noisome affair, in fact. No, not that. It was the early 1980s. Middlesbrough Town Hall. Toyah is onstage, dressed like Boudica, blasting her attractive brand of rebellion to the rafters. 

I am on the balcony, squished in a squash of punk, post-punk, new wave and blow-waved blokes, watching with faint alarm as this tiny, demented little firecracker fizzes about below. 

“I Wanna Be Free,” she implores. “It's a Mystery,” she concludes. 

It was a good night – only the second gig I had ever seen, in fact. The first – Bob Geldof's petulant Boomtown Rats – had served up a similar mix of theatricality and adolescent angst. And both acts suited the sad glamour of a grand Victorian building in a broken industrial town.

Building, town and Toyah are still standing.

An ocean has flopped under the bridge since then, of course – “Toyah” has become “Toyah Willcox”, 44-year-old showbiz face – but the fizz and the fire have not been extinguished.

I open the bidding with a question about following a tough act in the form of original Calamity Jane star Doris Day. Toyah practically gnaws my head off:

“No, I'm not. I'm not following a tough act at all. My performance is 100 miles away from Doris Day's. Women have moved on 50 years since Doris Day's rather saccharine performance.”

Mmm. Not a brilliant start. 

But as she elaborates she mellows, even conceding that the classic, golden age Hollywood musical is “an absolute gift” – primarily because it means theatre-goers today arrive pre-programmed with the story line in their heads and the hum-along-tunes on their lips.

Oh, and just in case you have been residing in a Hebridean cave with nothing but a puffin for company, here is the Calamity Jane thing:

Calamity, a tomboy Indian scout, makes an ill-advised pledge to bring a famous Chicago star to a tiny saloon bar in Dakota. After much mishap and muddle along the way, the dainty chanteuse and cross-dressing heroine become bestest mates and Calamity even finds her feminine side. And then men go and muck everything up.

Think rip-roaring, whip-cracking, gun-toting, tough-talking, hard-riding, buckskin-slapping fun. Then add rabble-rousing songs like The Deadwood Stage, Windy City, Black Hills of Dakota and Secret Love. Get the picture?

Toyah has been Calamitous for some six months now and, make no mistake, this is no Panto-style cash cow for her. She is taking it deadly seriously: “I'm immensely proud of Calamity. I think it's a massive achievement. Our production is very much a play with music – it's not a kind of sequined production. It's very nitty-gritty and very fast. 

“We are far more interested in the real historical values of the people we are playing. Calamity Jane was a real woman (Martha Jane Cannary, fact fans), a real pioneer who lived around 1860. 

“She was a scout for the army, lived and dressed like a man and was a hard drinker. She was a real, robust, bombastic character – phenomenally interesting and wonderful to play.”

By all accounts, Toyah flings herself about the stage like a pumped-up beach ball. (Check out the brilliant diary entries on her official website for alarming descriptions of dislocations and bruisings.)

Toyah, my old fruit – you must be absolutely exhausted?

“It is exhausting, but very rewarding. We've been on the road since September and as far as I'm concerned I'm still very much in love with the show – and I've got hopefully another five months to go on it.”

She might say this to all the boys, of course, but she proceeds to swear that she is particularly looking forward to the Norwich leg: “I love it – it's a gorgeous place. I've got some very good friends up there so I'm often weekending there.”

In its 25-year trajectory, Toyah's career has chopped and changed its course like one of those fireworks that chops and changes course a great deal.

She began as an actress at the National Theatre and first sparked the public imagination in 1977 when she played a mad character called, err, “Mad”, in Derek Jarman's art-punk movie Jubilee. 

Next she started up her own band but took care to keep up the theatrics, appearing alongside Katherine Hepburn in The Corn is Green and in Quadrophenia and Jarman's The Tempest.

By the early 1980s, singer-Toyah bagged a couple of big hits, winning Best Female Singer at the British Rock & Pop awards, and seemed set for popstardom proper. 

But still she refused to ditch the drama. A string of West End productions followed, including a starring role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at the Strand Theatre, a spot opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in Granada's The Ebony Tower, and the perfect Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream at Regent's Park.

More recently there have been a string of TV shows – kids and adults – Panto, an Eighties' bands revival tour and… ahem…the Teletubbies. 

This isn't eclecticism, Ms Willcox, this is complete madness.

“I don't know what it is, but different people like me for different reasons. I was so lucky that Derek Jarman treated me like his muse in his early film years and people like Anne Wood, who created Teletubbies, thinks I have a great way with children.

“I just feel incredibly lucky that people trust me in different genres and I don't know why or what it is.”

And if you had to choose just one of those worlds?

“Acting,” she answers before I've even finished the question.

“Film. But that's because film is so glamorous. Singing was great while I was younger but it's not something I want to do forever.

“I must admit that as I get older I am happier hiding behind a character than being me.”

She admits to being an utter workaholic, feeling “more alive” at work than home. This is principally because she has “no family” and “no reason to go home at night”, she says. (Presumably her equally famous musician husband Robert Fripp is permanently swanning off around the globe, fiddling about with his guitars…)

Her drive, and she clearly has Aston Martin amounts, was ignited during her troubled Birmingham childhood, she agrees – a time of dyslexia, illness, weird hair and rebellion:

“I have a certain kind of determination because everyone wrote me off early on and I was very aware of that as a child.

“Because I wasn't conventionally, physically beautiful, I was very aware that I was going to have to fight harder than most.”

As they did for many other ugly young ducklings in 1970s England, spiked hair and safety pins provided the escape route. Toyah says she is still “madly in love with Punk philosophy”.

“I think it brought generations into a new positive light and I think that kind of ethic never leaves you.

“I feel wildly enthusiastic about anyone and everyone I meet because I only see the good in people. That really was the punk philosophy. I think what I do today is no different from that. I go into a job because I want to be in love with it, not just because I want to earn cash.”

Forgive the indulgent nostalgia, but you don't happen to remember playing a gig at Middlesbrough Town Hall in the early 1980s do you?

“1981!” she replies, quick as a flash. “With the balcony that bounced. It was a great gig. I can remember nearly stopping the show because no-one warned me that it bounced like that.”

Told you it was bouncy!

Liverpool Echo: Toyah's Calamity - 13th March 2003
There are few things Toyah Willcox has not done. She has been a film actress, rock star, appeared in stage and television dramas, flown around as Peter Pan and worked in children's television.

So I put it to her when we meet that she must be a workaholic. "No, just very old," she laughs (she's actually somewhere in her mid 40s). "I happen to like my work, I enjoy it."

There has been no career game plan. "It's all been a happy accident," she says. "I have this kind of idea that a lot of people say no to work and I say yes so I always get something good."

That "something good" at the moment is the starring role in a new stage production of the film musical Calamity Jane. That's right - the one that originally starred Hollywood's Queen of Clean, Doris Day.

At first glance it may seem unlikely that Toyah, a punk Goddess with huge success in the 1980s, would slip easily into the role.

But that's the strange thing about Ms. Will-cox - that wild rock act was just part of a life that has seen her acting with Laurence Olivier and supplying the narration for Teletubbies. She began her stage career at the National Theatre.

But don't expect a Doris Day-style interpretation of Calamity Jane when the musical arrives at Liverpool's Empire Theatre from 1 April for a week-long run.

"When I was asked to do this I said I did not want to do a Doris Day interpretation, I wanted to bring the show into the new millennium and treat it how women are today and how I felt women were years ago when pioneers in America. "I wanted something gritty which kicked ass a bit more."

As it was, she was already a fan of the film on which the stage version was based and had watched it 10 times.

The first stage production had been tried out in the late 1970s with - amazingly - Barbara Windsor in the title role. It toured but never made it into the West End after Windsor left the production. A later touring version starred Gemma Craven.

But the latest version with Toyah is a "brand, spanking new production, everything is new from top to bottom," she says. "It's a completely fresh approach."

It had to be with a 24-year-old director Ed Smith and a 24-year-old producer Tristan Baker.

"It's like the old Cambridge Footlights when you had this little group of drama school pupils and you knew they were going to do something substantial. That's what this team feels like, you know they are going on and on. They are incredibly young but they have got their heads screwed on."

Mind you, she has managed to put some of them back again. "We are all a creative team, the director producer, me and my leading man Alasdair Harvey as Wild Bill Hickock. He was the lead in Beauty and the Beast in the West End for two years."

The result is that the show - hopefully heading for the West End - has been changing all the time since it began its tour last year. "We have been perfecting it. It is said it takes a year to produce a definitive version for a musical so we have been tightening it up and exploring it."

The story is set around the love-hate relationship between Calamity and Wild Bill with various subplots more than filling out the background.

The hit film was a wonderful inheritance, Toyah allows. "We are just giving it a bit more edge and making it historically accurate."

So there have been changes. In the film, the rough, tough, gun-shooting Calamity finally gets into a dress and goes all girly. 

"Well, I do get into a ballgown but end up tearing it up and getting back into buckskin," says Toyah. Funny enough, audiences are divided over that. My compromise was that I become as feminine as I think a character can considering she is a free spirit."

And she does wear real buckskin. "It's bloody hot," she says.

The stage version does include some new numbers by the original writing team of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster. "They are all in the first scene and they are good songs, in one I crack a bullwhip and another I am climbing all over the scenery so visually they are very good.

But film fans fear not, the opening number is still that dashing The Deadwood Stage. And Calamity does get to ride a stagecoach.

The musical marks Toyah's 25th year in showbusiness and she is concentrating all her resources into the production. The music tours are being wound down.

"There is are some concerts in May and a mini-album which is really just fan-based. I am planning a big show in Birmingham and a big show in London, and that's about it."

It was as a rock performer that she made here last Liverpool appearance at the Empire and as was the thing with such tours it was a matter of arriving, doing the show and moving on.

But she does have a closer link with the city. The sculptor Elizabeth Frink was a close friend and she went to see her when working on the statue of Christ for Liverpool Cathedral. "She had very bad throat cancer at the time and told me that working on the sculpture was the thing that was keeping her alive. She died as soon as it was finished."

So it was on her death that Toyah drove to Liverpool to see the sculpture in place. "And there it was, right above the doorway and looking wonderful."

News Shopper: Toyah Interview - 27th February 2003
The multi-talented Toyah Willcox is about to whip-crack her way to The Orchard, in Dartford, with a stage version of Calamity Jane, the film classic immortalised by Doris Day. And Willcox, who has worked with Hollywood legends Laurence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn, says this classic comedy musical is the most demanding role she has ever taken on.

Considering the actress starred in ground-breaking and controversial films such as Jubilee and Quadrophenia, this is quite a statement.

The former pop star says she was a fan of the original film but she added: "I'm not doing a Doris Day impersonation.

"The original was a 1950s' period piece. We are trying to recreate the way it was in the Wild West and how people behaved without inhibitions. But in a way Calamity has her inhibitions because she is hiding her femininity. Our version is a bit more nitty-gritty, even though the audience will leave the theatre with a smile on their faces. 

"It's always been one of those parts I wanted to have a go at. I trained for six months to make sure I had the stamina, which is just as well because it is a very demanding role."

The play follows the adventures of a tough-talking Indian scout. She was named Calamity Jane by a Major she saved in war because she always seemed to be around chaotic situations. She puts her reputation on the line when she promises to bring a famous singing star, Adelaide Adams, from Chicago to Dakota's Golden Garter Saloon. 

After a small matter of mistaken identity, the dainty chanteuse and our hero become the best of friends until, that is, the hard-riding, hard-drinking, gun-toting cow girl realises she may have a rival for the affections of the Deadwood's two most eligible cowboys, Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin and Wild Bill Hickock.

But will the two gals sort out their differences?

Before this venture, Willcox was part of the sell-out Here and Now Tour, where she appeared alongside Spandau Ballet, ABC and Belinda Carlisle. The 44-year-old did a 20-minute slot where she belted out her favourite hits, It's a Mystery, I Wanna be Free and Thunder in the Mountains.

She says she's not too concerned today's youngsters will not remember Toyah the singer.

She said: "I'm better known for children's shows such as Teletubbies, Aunt Boomerang and my presenting work."

Willcox hopes to see Calamity Jane move to the West End after the tour ends in June. But she says after that she has no preference about what sort of work comes her way she wants to go on doing anything and everything!

Kent Messenger: Calamity is her good fortune - 7th February 2003
Toyah Willcox is heading to Kent in the musical Calamity Jane. For someone who's not a particular fan of musicals she's having a great time. Michael DeFroand found out why.

"It's fantastic, really great," enthused Toyah Willcox about her role as Calamity Jane as she prepared for the second leg of her national tour.

"It's been getting some really great reviews. It's a high energy production. There's music, a great love story, lots of comedy and plenty of action. I'm not usually a big fan of musicals. I never thought I'd do one but this is such a good story and has such a great script."

Calamity Jane was made famous by Doris Day in the classic 1953 film.

"I've watched the film so many times over the years," said Toyah. "And we re-watched it in preparation for this tour but this production is really quite earthy and edgy. It's very Wild West, there's not a sequin in sight."

It sounds hectic, too.

"It's a very physical part. I get thrown about and we've all had to learn how to handle guns and bullwhips. The guns are so loud and the bullwhips are really tricky. It's quite a responsibility handling the whips, you can easily cut someone if you're not careful."

The combination of action, music and excitement makes Calamity Jane a real family attraction.

Toyah explained: "We've been seeing an unbelievable age range in the audience. Before I started the musical, I thought the audience may be in their 20s and above but lots of families have been coming and the children have been really enthralled - there's lots of fighting and action and plenty to keep them amused. It ends well, too - it's an uplifting musical."

Most actors will tell you that touring is tiring, but Toyah has a different take on it.

"To be honest, it's fun," she said. "I wouldn't like to tour with the Scottish play but this one is really enjoyable. Plus, I love Canterbury - I was in panto there in Peter Pan."

So, with a recent spate in panto and the second leg of Calamity Jane underway, how does Toyah relax?

"I love walking," she said. "I'll probably walk around Canterbury after the show. Also, I spend about four hours in the bath - two hours in the morning and two in the evening."

While many celebrities bemoan the fact that they can't get on television as often as they'd like, Toyah has remained a familiar face.

"I'm lucky," she added. "First of all I've got a very good agent. Also, I have specialities that the TV can call upon - I specialise in alternative remedies, fitness and diets.  I had a nutrition expert with me throughout the 1980s, so I know quite a lot about that."

What lies ahead for Toyah?

"Well, I'm keeping the diary open at the moment because I'm touring with Calamity Jane up until May and then we might be able to take it to the West End. So, I'll see."

Romford Recorder: Plain Talking Jane - 31st January 2003
Barry Kirk talks to Toyah Willcox about her role as the hard-drinking, hard-cussing, hard-riding, Calamity Jane, shooting star of the Wild West.

The gorgeous Toyah Willcox has put a new slant on the old theatrical saying "the smell of the greasepaint" only she reckons it's not just the aroma of greasepaint on the actors in Calamity Jane at Westcliff's Cliffs Pavilion.

"I love this production," she said. "It's very physical and fast action from start to finish, so you can certainly smell we are working hard."

Toyah, along with a whole company of action men and women are on the road with a huge star-studded production of Calamity Jane, a true story based on a Wild West woman, Martha Jane Cannary, who was immortalised by Doris Day in the Warner Brothers classic film of the same name.

The tour reaches the Cliffs Pavilion for six nights later next month.

Based on Martha, the true story is wrapped round the myths and legends of Wild Bill Hickock, who Martha apparently requested to be buried beside.

Life was tough in 1850 Nevada, and the legend of Calamity Jane grew up against the background of American Indians fighting for their homeland against the settlers, miners and farmers. That legendary time in the development of the Western US states provided the rich backdrop for her story.


Martha was born in Missouri in 1848, but moved to Virginia City where an Indian uprising separated her from her family at the tender age of 10.

She wandered from place to place and soon became a respected scout for the cavalry, showing great courage and daring the equal of any man, let alone woman.

Her horsemanship, shooting and skills at swearing and drinking, along with the daring rescue of a stagecoach full of men from an Indian attack, and saving a wounded solder from a battle, ensured her legendary status, which she built on in the late 1880's.

A friend of Wild Bill, Martha, by now nicknamed Calamity Jane by the soldier she rescued, went into the entertainment business once the West was well and truly tamed. She died in 1903 after a drinking bout.
Her true story will probably never be fully known, but for the romantic Americans, the fact that she shot, drank, rode a horse and was brave, was enough to produce the film that rocketed Doris Day into stardom in the late 1950's.

Toyah's willingness to take on the role was obvious by the enthusiasm she has for the part.
"It's pure entertainment and we all literally have to throw ourselves into the parts.

"I thought I would have to be nursing my voice with all those fabulous songs, but I spend more time with the bruises.

"These people were pioneers and did not have any luxuries. It was all do, and make do, so their life was, by definition, rough."

To prove her point, Toyah has to leap from the top of the stagecoach to the stage, and quite literally throw herself around in fights.

"The last thing you worry about is fear," she said. "There's no time, it's all go.

"You should see my muscles. They are as hard as iron."

The visit to Westcliff is about midway through the tough tour, and speaking last week from Edinburgh, Toyah said that the whole run in the Scottish capital was sold out.

"It really has caught the imagination," she said. "It is a love story basically, but a very tough love story.


"Calamity Jane was no sweet thing in long dresses, she could out-shoot, out-drink, and out-cuss most men, so though quite a lot of the story may be myth, the legend is as strong as they come."

Toyah's multi-skilling in the theatre is drawn on fully for the role. With songs such as: The Deadwood Stage; Windy City; The Black Hills of Dakota and Secret Love, she has a testing time vocally.

"Funnily enough there is only one song that I have to belt out, the rest are a bit like Country and Western," she said.

Her last visit to the area was in a tour of The Live Bed Show with Joe McGann at the Queen's in Hornchurch.

This Is South Devon: Toyah breezes in on Bay Stage - 7th November 2002
Toyah, one of the wilder children of punk? Get away. She's had a sheltered life, really. 

At least, that's what she says. While other punkmeisters were messing themselves up with serious drink and drug habits, poor old Toyah would sit in hotel rooms and ask herself "where are all the orgies?". 

Amazing. She had an eight-year career as a pop star and never once joined the space cadet fraternity. For "I Want to be Free", read "I want to marry Robert Fripp but hardly ever see him and spend almost my entire adult life on the road". 

Since 1987 Toyah's been back on stage and screen, where in fact she belongs. Now 44, she wanted to be a performer from the age of seven and by 18 was on stage at the National Theatre. By 20, she was cutting her first album, Sheep farming in Barnet. 

She's always preferred being an actor to being a pop star, though. "I liked going back into the theatre because there, people aren't interested in you only as an ego, someone who has to perform all the time. In the theatre you're part of a team. 

"I'm much happier with that." 

Toyah was one of those overnight stars, with massive hits such as I Want to Be Free in 1981. This was in the days, too, when celebrity was different. People wouldn't just say to their friends "oh, look, there goes Angus Deayton" and turn back to their cappuccinos, like they do now. 

"Pink hair was just not done in those days. People would see me from 100 yards away and just know it was me. Back then people used to go bonkers over celebrities. I'd be in a car at a set of traffic lights and get mobbed. I'm not complaining, but from being anonymous, within 24 hours everywhere I went I'd see my picture." 

Unlike other stars, though, there weren't any skeletons in her closet to fall rattling on to the front pages of the tabloids. "I haven't slept with any prostitutes and I haven't raped anyone, I'm afraid. 

"The tabloids would have to be pretty desperate to run anything on me. I'm amazed at what a charmed life I led, because all my friends were having a riot. I was very protected. It was almost a chaste life. I ended up thinking: "How did all that pass me by? Where were all the orgies? After a show I would be just put in a car and taken to a hotel." 

She's been an inspiration to famed art house film director Derek Jarman, though. Toyah was in his films Jubilee and The Tempest. "It was lovely because Derek treated me like a muse. It was the only time I ever experienced that. I knew little about Shakespeare and I was ready to turn down the part of Miranda in The Tempest. 

"Derek taught me so much about Shakespeare, about his obscure references. It was fascinating and I wish we'd learnt that sort of stuff at school." 

Now, 15 years after returning to the stage at the Birmingham Rep, she's playing Calamity Jane in a tour. "This isn't a sequinned production. We've tried to make it gritty." 

Very different from the fragrant Doris Day, then. "I identify with the real Calamity Jane, who lived around 1850, because her pioneer spirit was more remarkable than anything that's come since. 

"She survived by pretending to be mad. She was right on the frontier at a time when the Indians were fighting the Americans, but the Indians left her alone because they thought she was crazy." 

Calamity Jane is based on the hard-drinking, tough-talking exploits of the real-life Martha Jane Cannary. Calamity, which includes classics such as The Deadwood Stage, Windy City, The Black Hills of Dakota and Secret Love is, of course, highly fictionalised. 

But the flavour of Martha is still there. Toyah, whose name comes from an Indian tribe, has the same free spirit. She's been married to former King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp for 17 years but the couple have no children and often pass like ships in the night. "I've been on the road for 25 years and that's how I like it, so having children doesn't interest me. 

"Robert and I tend to meet in hotels in exotic locations, which is why we're still together. Neither of us can bear being at home." Even when that home was until recently the beautiful former Wiltshire residence of photographer Cecil Beaton. 

Performing and touring, being part of a team. That's the way she likes it.

South Devon Herald Express: Toyah adds danger to Calamity Jane role - 7th November 2002
Death was a daily occurence where the only law was the law of the gun

Su Carroll talks to an ex-punk star stepping into Doris Day's shoes 

The Deadwood Stage is coming on over the hill, and on board is Toyah Willcox - playing the title role in a brand new production of Calamity Jane. 

The story is based on a real life character, Martha Jane Cannary who was born in 1852, and dressed, drank and fought like a man. 

The musical was popular as an Oscar-winning film starring Doris Day and features such classic songs as The Deadwood Stage, Windy City, Black Hills of Dakota and Secret Love. 

As you would expect with Toyah involved, this version will be different. "It's much more real and much more gritty," explains Toyah. 

"It's a young company and it's a very high energy production. We've tried to put the sense of danger back into it which was taken away in the 1950s when Calamity Jane was given a kind of housewife image. 

"Death was a daily occurrence where the only law was the law of the gun. Only two people on stage carry a gun - me and Wild Bill - and both of us kill people. 

"It's a community where anarchy can break out at any time and we've made the fights much more real - they're not a comedy stage fight." 

Toyah admits that this dash of realism does surprise audiences who are expecting a typical musical. 
"It is difficult to portray and it would be easy to slip in to doing a 'nice musical' but the music becomes a real celebration of life and is much more poignant." 

It's not known whether the real Calamity Jane had a romantic relationship with Wild Bill Hickock, as she does in the show, but the story goes that she made a deathbed request to be buried beside him. 

The story is set in Deadwood, a typical wild west town in Dakota where Indian scout Calamity Jane, is as hard-riding, gun-toting and as boastful as any man on the prairie. 

She puts her reputation on the line when she promises to bring a famous singing star all the way from Chicago to the Golden Garter Saloon. But the new, and very feminine, arrival provides competition for the affections of the town's two most eligible cowboys, the dashing Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin and fast drawing Wild Bill Hickock. 

"She was remarkable - she dressed like a man and was a scout for the army," says Toyah. "She led a dangerous life and survived. 

"The musical was written as a vehicle for Doris Day and was a celebration of the role women played during the Second World War. 

"I have taken things from the Doris Day production - like the arrangements for Secret Love. We just play that moment. The rest of the play is very fast and very aggressive." 

Toyah has enjoyed a wide range of roles from films like Jubilee and Quadrophenia, stage shows like Cabaret and Peter Pan and a host of television programmes including Teletubbies as well as a career in punk rock music. But she is in no doubt about the significance of Calamity Jane: "It's the highlight of my career."

This Is York: Calamity Jane Interview - 23rd October 2002
In a week when scripts for six musicals landed on her doormat, Toyah Willcox cleared the deadwood and settled on Calamity Jane.  

Set in Deadwood, Dakota, the windy Wild West town where men are cowboys and women are wholesome, clean-living gals, this musical story of hard-riding, gun-toting Indian scout Calamity Jane has always appealed to Toyah. 

"I was a tomboy as a child, so when I saw the film, I identified with her, and I was never offended that she ended up in a gingham dress and got married. I thought Doris Day's understated performance had great dignity. 

"I knew the role suited me, I knew it was a part I could play, and I knew that if I didn't play it now, I would never play it. It's not just the physicality involved but a matter of age, and the more I left it, the more absurd it would be," says the 44-year-old singer, actress and TV presenter, who will be in York next week for Calamity Jane's touring run at the Grand Opera House. 

"Jobs come down to timing and the timing is right for me to do Calamity - and I've put six months into this already, studying the music, the voice, doing accent training and bull-whip training with a cowboy." 
The national tour of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's comedy musical opened in Northampton on September 9 and will run for ten months, a long commitment that Toyah wanted to explore to the max.  

"I met up with the producer and said `It's all right doing something that's so associated with Doris Day from the 1953 film, but how do we do Calamity Jane for now?'. So I've had a lot of input into it," says Toyah, who has decided to look very dirty in the role whereas Doris Day was the epitome of Hollywood studio glamour. 
"It was written not only as a piece for Doris Day but also as a celebration of women in the Second World War, and it's a celebration of how far women have come." 

From Derek Jarman's punk movie Jubilee to Kate in Taming Of The Shrew, from Trafford Tanzi to Sally Bowles in Cabaret, from Peter Pan to Shakespeare's Puck, Toyah has played wilful characters. Calamity Jane is the next in line, a tough-talking prairie woman who boasts she can bring a famous singing star from Chicago to Dakota's Golden Garter Saloon. 

The musical may be a fictionalised account but Calamity Jane was for real: the story is based on the life of Martha Jane Cannary (1848 or maybe 1852 to 1903), who dressed, drank and fought like a man and was prone to exaggerate her exploits. 

"She lived an incredibly dangerous life, and because of that atmosphere where men could snap at any time, the music in this show bursts with energy as a pure celebration of life," says Toyah, who believes the musical has as much impact as ever. 

"It has that incredible music, that wonderful love story and it has topicality because in many ways women have come full circle: where women had compromised their role as housewives to go out to work, now they have now reclaimed the right to stay at home as a mother." 

Where does Toyah stand on the mother/work issue?  

"I'm a working girl myself, but life is about choice and what women have reclaimed is the right to choose. Having said that, I don't think life is that easy but I have freedom in my life, which I'm grateful for, and the past 25 years are a testament to me making choices," says this Buddhist woman who has presented both Songs Of Praise and The Good Sex Guide Late. 

Her choice right now is Calamity Jane - she even hopes for a West End transfer - but unlike Calamity she has no fixation with cowboys. "No, I loathed John Wayne movies with a passion, because they were so male dominated. I much preferred things where women didn't have to dress up." 

She is still Toyah the tomboy after all these years.

Manchester Evening News: How the West was sung - 6th October 2002
It's how the West was sung! A brand-new production of the classic musical show Calamity Jane whip-cracks its way to the Opera House, with Toyah Willcox returning to the stage to play Calamity, a role immortalised on the Hollywood screen by Doris Day. 

"A lot of people ask me whether it's intimidating taking on a role that's so famously associated with another person, but it's not the first time I've done it," observes Willcox, who has, for instance, also played Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Aladdin in last year's panto at Stockport's Plaza. "It's certainly true, though, that she made the songs and the story so famous and it's a show that's looked upon with great affection, so obviously, you don't want to mess that up in any way.  

"I'll be singing in character," she adds. "I've adapted my voice so that it's a bit lighter and with perhaps ever so slightly ironic." 

One thing she's not looking forward to, though, is donning a gingham dress.  

"That's not going to happen if I have anything at all to do with it. You're simply not going to catch me in gingham," she laughs. 

The Manchester dates are part of a nationwide tour which is, in Toyah's words, "bloody long! I've never committed myself to anything for this length of time before and it might end up being an even longer commitment as they're already talking about the show going into the West End.  

"That was something I thought about a lot, I have to admit. But I also thought that I'm 44 now - which makes me twice as old as everyone else in the company - and if I don't play it now, it would start to look a little ridiculous!" 

Meanwhile, her musical career continues. There's a new album due to be released any day now and she sounds terribly enthusiastic when she talks about the Here And Now tour, on which she shared the bill with the likes of Belinda Carlisle, ABC and Spandau Ballet and which came to the Manchester Evening News Arena this April. 

"That was just a wonderful gig," she shrieks. "What was so great about that whole tour was that it put that music back in the context it was written for, big arena gigs like that. It was so exciting to step back into the arena experience and see people enjoying themselves like that. Hopefully, this show will have a similar effect on the audience."

Northants News: Toyah appeal is no mystery - 12th September 2002
Toyah Willcox is never one to shy away from a challenge. In a career that has spanned 25 years she has had several top 10 hits, wrestled live on stage, starred opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and has narrated one of the most successful children’s programmes ever. Now she is set to tackle the role of Calamity Jane, the Wild West heroine made famous on the big screen by Doris Day. 

"I had fond memories of the film because I had seen it as a child," said Toyah. "The film was a vehicle for Doris Day, but the script was written afterwards and is interesting because it is so much darker. Doris Day’s performance was wonderful but things have moved on and women are perceived as much stronger than in the ’50s." 

Toyah, who started her acting career at the Old Rep Drama School in her home town of Birmingham, has some very definite ideas about the eponymous heroine. 

"I wanted Calamity to have surrendered her femininity to survive in the environment that she lived in," she said. "This is a small town in middle America that could easily starve to death and people who made it there were very tough. Women are not that common so in order to feel safe she has taken on this masculine persona." 

In this action packed, rip-roaring show, Calamity puts her reputation on the line when she promises to bring a famous singing star all the way from Chicago to Deadwood’s Golden Garter Saloon.  

Toyah said: "You must never lose sight that this is a lovely fun love story with a man who has always loved this woman but can’t bear her masculinity. Wild Bill Hickock expects women to be in petticoats and smell nice but she never smells nice. 

"I wanted to have the effect that the character hasn’t bathed for three months so when the change comes it is stunning." 

Toyah’s first notable acting role came in 1977 when director Derek Jarman cast her as Mad in the punk epic, Jubilee. Her latest role is one of her most physical but she intends to take it in her stride. 
"I will need stamina and mental agility to get round the dance steps but I have always been fit,” she said. "I love physical theatre that is bombastic and robust. In Calamity Jane there should be scenes where she is thrown through bar windows because they treat her as if she were a man." 

Toyah had a successful pop career with hit singles including It’s A Mystery, I Want To Be Free and Thunder In The Mountains. She is still making music and releases a new album, Little Tears of Love in November.  

"The music has a whole different feel," she said. "It is stripped down and real. I work with a three-piece band and it is quite naked." 

The 44-year-old spent the 1990s adding another string to her bow by becoming a television presenter of programmes such as Heaven and Earth and Holiday. In recent years Toyah has also been the narrator of Teletubbies. 

"I am best friends with the creator Ann Wood and when I read it I said ‘This is the new Magic Roundabout’." 

Toyah, who still lives in the Midlands with her husband of 16 years musician Robert Fripp, has been performing in pantomime since 1984, but still gets nervous before a stage performance.  

"I get physically sick. Don’t come near me half and hour before the show because I turn into a rabid monster." 

Northants News: Toyah takes the Deadwood Stage - 12th September 2002
Actress, singer and TV presenter Toyah Willcox adds another string to her bow when she plays the title role in a new stage version of the hit musical Calamity Jane. 

It will be the first time in 20 years that the spectacular show, which premieres at Northampton’s Derngate next week, has toured the UK and the 44-year-old star hopes it will transfer to the West End after its ten-month run. 

"I was flattered when they sent me the script because it’s quite a young role and I may never get the chance to do it again," she said. “I was a big fan of the film version and Doris Day was remarkably clever in the way she took this character, who dressed like a man and didn’t bath, and made her attractive. 

"Most people don’t realise Jane was a real person, who lived in the 1860s and won medals for her shooting, and this new interpretation of the story gets closer to the reality of those times. In those days gunfights and ambushes were the norm and people didn’t know if they would live till the next day. For women, it must have been frightening but also exhilarating." 

Toyah’s only previous musical experience was playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret at London’s Strand Theatre. In a diverse acting career she has tackled everything from panto to Shakespeare, learning the ropes at the Birmingham Old Repertory Theatre School and becoming, at the age of 18, the youngest member of the National Theatre. 

On the big screen, she appeared alongside Katharine Hepburn in The Corn Is Green, played ‘Monkey’ in Quadrophenia and won a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Evening Standard Awards for her role as Miranda in Derek Jarman’s film The Tempest. On TV she starred opposite Sir Laurence Olivier and Greta Scaachi in Granada’s The Ebony Tower. 

She said: "I was always told to diversify with the roles I accept so you don’t get pigeonholed. I feel very privileged to have worked with such great names as Hepburn and Olivier, who came from that lost generation of stars who were so extraordinary in their eloquence. I wasn’t looking to learn from them – I just enjoyed being in their company, listening to all these stories about such legends as James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Vivien Leigh." 

In more recent years Toyah has carved out a career in television, from appear-ing in Kavanagh QC to being guest presenter on The Heaven And Earth Show, Fasten Your Seatbelts and Holiday. She also presented an epic series on alternative medicine for the Discovery Channel and on children’s TV she voiced Brum and the Teletubbies and played the title role in two series of the BBC’s Barmy Aunt Boomerang! 

"I’m very close to Ann Wood, the creator of Teletubbies and did just five minutes of narration on the first episode. But it’s probably the most important five minutes of my career as within three months it was a worldwide hit!  

"Barmy Aunt Boomerang! is about a ghost from Australia living with a boy in Glasgow – it was all good experience and great fun to do."

Warrington Guardian: It's A Mystery! - Toyah tight lipped over new role - 9th September 2002
Eighties pop star Toyah Willcox is busy rehearsing for a rip-roaring roller coaster production of Calamity Jane. 

And after spending the past 25 years either on stage, in a television studio or recording hit songs, she will feel at home at Manchester's Opera House and The Regent Theatre in Stoke. 

The musical is loosely based on the life of Martha Jane Cannary, who was born in 1852 in Missouri, and stars Toyah in the title role. 

Featuring songs such as Windy City, The Deadwood Stage and the Oscar winning Secret Love, Calamity Jane is a typical western set in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, where men are cowboys and women are clean-living housewives. 

Toyah will be stepping into Calamity's shoes, previously worn by Carry On star Barbara Windsor and film star Doris Day, but anyone who is expecting a production like the 1953 film is in for a surprise.  
Toyah said: "Calamity Jane is a great production - it's buzzing and very lively. 

"Most people who will be coming to see the musical will be expecting something schmaltzy because they'll have seen the film starring Doris Day. 

"I've seen this version many times and I remember watching the film as a child. But we've done something different with the story, which is quite unusual." 

Toyah has been performing on stage for the past 25 years in productions such as Cabaret and Peter Pan as well as Shakespeare classics. 

Her role in Calamity Jane is as a hard-riding, gun-toting and boastful woman who is involved in a love-triangle with the dashing Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin and fast drawing Wild Bill Hickock. 

The musical is a fast-paced, action-packed story of gunfights, passion and saloon life and is set in the highly charged atmosphere of the Wild West in 1876. 

The 30-strong cast, which has been rehearsing for the past four weeks, will be appearing in Stoke between September 30 and October 5 and in Manchester between October 7 and 12. 

Cast members are hoping the 10-month national tour will end up in London's West End next summer.

This Is Bolton: Toyah takes aim at a career on the stage - 25th August 2002
THERE are only a select band of celebrities who are known by one name. Among them is Madonna, Jagger, Bowie . . . and Toyah writes Beverly Greenberg  

The latter burst on to the scene with violently dyed red hair and lashings of thick make-up telling us how "It's A Mystery". Almost 25 years later, that same "wild child" can be seen presenting a variety of mainstream television shows ranging from religion to travel, and is now embarking on a musical tour playing a lead role originally made famous by -- Doris Day!  

But did she ever envisage, all those years ago as a young punk, that her career would take such a diverse route?  

She laughs: "When I started I never even imagined living beyond 30.  

"In fact, when I reached my 30th birthday I had to think 'Now what am I going to do?'."  

Despite a lack of formal planning, Toyah Wilcox's career has gone from strength to strength, with the singer, turned presenter, turned actress remaining as enthusiastic as ever.  

But are there any offers of work that she would turn down?  

"I would never want to do a sex scene," she insists. "I am very, very physically shy. With presenting, I have avoided anything to do with shopping and babies. I do not like shopping and have not had any babies." She adds: "I only take jobs I want. That keeps me really enthusiastic. There is nothing worse than having a big expensive show starring a leading actress who resents being there.  

"It is the presenting which has kept me in touch with people. It has allowed me to be slightly journalistic while looking at the issues.  

"And yet it came about as a remarkable mistake. My agent told me I had been approached to present an entertainment programme, but added that he had told them it was the sort of thing I would want to do. So I did it!"  

Although Toyah first came to prominence as a singer, she began her career at the National Theatre at the age of 18. She formed a band with the people she was working with and spent five years touring pubs and working men's clubs before enjoying her first hit record, It's A Mystery.  

She said: "The image was nothing new for me. I was wearing black and had pink hair when I was 14. When punk arrived on the scene I felt there was something finally out there for me.  

"I was obsessed with becoming famous. It was like a bad habit. My ambitions have changed now. I am more realistic these days, but I love acting and would love to be on television or in film, or do more work on stage."  

An on stage is where you will find Toyah for the next year or so, starring in Calamity Jane, a part made famous by Doris Day.  

Toyah said: "The character did exist, living around the 1860s, and yes, she did have to dress and talk like a man.  

"I do like the music. When you look at the Doris Day film it is apparent that it was written for her as a vehicle and represented women of the 1950s. We are looking at representing these women in the 1860s.  
"These women were pioneers, able to claim their own land. They would ride out on their own into the wilderness to claim the land." 

"We open on September 9 and come to Manchester in October. Rehearsals have just started, which I thoroughly enjoy.  

"I will be touring with Calamity Jane for 10 months and then there are rumours that it will go to West End. There is even the possibility of being invited for a short run on Broadway. I have had to leave the next year free, just in case." 

Sunderland Journal: Toyah has a whip hand onstage  - 4th July 2002
For those of a certain age (over 35), Toyah Willcox will always be the high priestess of punk, the woman with the brightly coloured hair and startling make-up who used to lisp her way through 'It's A Mystery' and boasted of sleeping in a coffin. 

But like the rest of us, Ms Willcox has grown up. Now in her 40s she can be heard doing voice overs for hugely popular children's programmes Teletubbies and Brum, presenting the odd episode of Songs Of Praise and come September, rip-roaring her way around Britain as Calamity Jane. 

It's hard to imagine Toyah - the woman who shocked and delighted the public in equal measures in the 1980s by swearing and spitting, who admitted to drinking heavily since the age of nine and who, in the film Jubilee, throttled a man while having sex with him - taking on the role made famous by sugary-sweet Doris Day. 
But they say you should never judge a book by its cover, and this seems to be the case with Ms Willcox. 
Now sporting a sleek platinum blonde barnet ("I leave having multi-coloured hair to the younger generation"), a teetotaller, keep-fit addict and passionate anti-smoker, Toyah, it seems, has been a lifelong fan of Calamity. 

So when five stage scripts dropped through the door of her London flat last Winter - including what Toyah describes as the "most fantastic country and western musical which I know is going to be big but wasn't right for me" - she had no hesitation in signing up for the Deadwood Stage. 

When Calamity Jane opens at Northampton's Derngate Theatre on September 9, it will be the first time it has been staged professionally for 20 years. But Toyah fully expects it to put "bums on seats" as it moves onto Oxford, Sunderland from September 23, and then 18 other major cities and towns. 

There will be few people who don't know at least one of the songs made famous in the 1950s play and film - 'The Deadwood Stage (Whip-Crack-Away!)', 'Windy City', 'The Black Hills Of Dakota' and 'Secret Love', which Doris Day took to the top of the charts for a staggering 54 weeks. 

Ms Day will be a hard act to follow. For many she is, and will always remain, Calamity Jane, the Wild West's most famous, well-meaning but disaster-prone heroine who dresses like a man, totes a gun and drives the Deadwood City stagecoach. 

Talented as Toyah is with an impressive list of stage and film credits to her name, isn't she worried about taking on such a high profile role? "Not at all", she says with her familiar lisp. "I didn't become an actress to say no to certain areas of work. It will be a challenge, but one I believe everyone is going to meet head on. 
"I know a lot of people remember Doris Day, but remember, it's not just a revival. There is an audience out there who won't have seen Calamity Jane before. 

"And we aren't trying to emulate the film. I watched the movie a few weeks ago and I thought 'no, it is such a vehicle for Doris Day'. But we are doing a play and we are doing ot from as much of an historical perspective as we can. 

"Calamity Jane was a real person so there is a true, historical element to it. It is a funny story about a woman who did exist in the Mid-West." 

Toyah says she was attracted to Calamity Jane because "it is a strong female role". 
But there has been another carrot - if the musical is well received in the provinces, there is the possibility of a West End, or even a Broadway, run. And Toyah fully intends to be there taking centre stage. 
The mind boggles at how they will react stateside to an English production of an all-American musical starring an ex-punk star. 

Toyah insists there is a "very strong possibility" of Calamity crossing the Atlantic. And the reason is the September 11 terrorist attacks. "Broadway has been encountering serious problems following September 11," she says. "I think there will be huge novelty value in an English production of Calamity Jane opening there. 
"There is also the nostalgia factor. People are looking to the past - and I am one of them." 
Toyah has already been working hard on perfecting her bull whip technique. She has been trained by an adviser to the James Bond films, who she says "told me I had picked it up quicker than anyone he had worked with". 

It will be a useful skill to add to her CV should anyone be looking to cast a lion tamer or arch villainess opposite 007. 

Not that Toyah relies just on singing and acting to keep her head above water. Married to the American rock musician Robert Fripp, she has invested in property in London, the Midlands and the US. 

She says fear of poverty drives her to work hard for financial success. It is all a long way from the days of orange make-up and blue hair when she told everyone "I Wanna Be Free". 

Has any of the old Toyah survived? Some of the old fighting spirit certainly has. In May this year she hit the headlines when she joined villagers in Throckmorton, Worcestershire, to protest at Government plans to site an asylum centre there. 

It is at this point the interview hits a rocky patch. She has, she states forcefully, been "completely misquoted" over the affair in the Press, and launches into a tirade about journalists who can't be bothered to check their facts. 

She wants it known that she does not live in Throckmorton, although her parents' own a house a mile away and she has a home in a nearby market town. And, she says hotly, she is not a racist. 
"I was there because the site the Government has chosen is totally unsuitable. They want to build an asylum centre on a disused airbase and I felt compelled to protest not only because the area can't sustain such a huge influx of people but because the proposed site lies just yards from where 130,000 foot-and-mouth infected carcasses have been buried." 

Meanwhile, Toyah says she is looking forward to coming to Sunderland and hopes her visit will prove more auspicious than in April when she entertained the pre-match crowds at the Stadium of Light, and witnessed the home side's 1-0 defeat by Liverpool. 

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