Review: Calamity Jane, Edinburgh

MUSICALCalamity Jane George Watson's College ***

Angry shots could be heard loud and clear from George Watson's College this evening as the school's latest production - the 1953 western musical, Calamity Jane - got off to a rip-roarin', whip-a-crackin' start.

Stepping into Doris Day's well-worn cowhide boots is Jenni Philp. Philp's Calamity possesses a natural athleticism unlike her silver screen counterpart, flinging herself into the big production numbers with verve. Shifting seamlessly from dialogue into song, Philp makes light work of a demanding role, and offers no apologies for a character who is as much a puckish tomboy as a "fragile gal".

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Aside from such physical demands, Philp manages to give a passionate and at times, unabashedly tender vocal account of the eponymous heroine's misadventures. Ballad Secret Love is particularly affecting and Philp does well to maintain her Southern twang throughout.

The not-so-secret lover in question is flawed lawman, Wild Bill Hickok. Jonty Barron plays Wild Bill as an amiable, no nonsense type, concerned about protecting his people from the "injuns". His spar with Calamity on Can Do without You remains a highlight for Barron's comic timing and spiteful, crisp intonation.

Of course Calamity would not be the high-spirited show that it is without the raucous residents of Deadwood.

Iain Mundy is suitably forthright on Love You Dearly as the dashing Lieutenant Gilmartin while Isobel Jones puts in a spirited performance as his sweetheart and Calamity's rival, Adelaide Adams. But it is the multi-talented Tom Mullin, who gives the production its much needed pizzazz as entertainer-cum-drag artiste Francis Fryer - gaily tap dancing and cart wheeling across the stage.

Further mention must be made to Watson's lively orchestra and Hughes & Pendreich's high-flying choreography. All said, Calamity Jane is a thoroughly enjoyable production, which unlike the catastrophic title would suggest, goes out with an almighty bang.

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