Wonderful Calamity!

From the Exmouth Journal April 1974, by Jim Stagg

If ever there was a farewell performance on the amateur stage that brought the house down, that performance was given by Annette Moore in the amazingly successful production of “Calamity Jane” by the 14-20 Music and Drama Society at the Pavilion on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week.

Because of the society’s age limit, Annette, just, 20, as “Calamity” herself was playing her last role for the 14-20’s, with whom she has taken a leading part since its inception.

And what an incredibly good performance she gave.

Indeed, what an incredibly good production “Calamity Jane” was from all angels.

And for this producer Alan Smith, and musical director, Pamela Jones, choreographer, Iris Moore, and costume designer and creator Betty McAskie deserve the very highest praise.

After seeing such a colourful well-acted, well-sung, beautifully dressed production, presented with such enthusiasm, skill and flair, one is apt to let one’s superlatives run away with one.

But this was such a production and after Alan Smith, Pamela Jones, Iris Moore and Betty McAskie have received their well-deserved accolades, one must say that the whole thing stood or fell on the performance of the young actress cast for the role of Calamity Jane.

Without Annette Moore’s verve and vitality, her wonderfully raucous domination, culminating in her quiet softness when she- and the unexpected man of her choice- discover in the end that she is in fact very much a “female woman”, it would have been just another production.

But with the skill of the producer and musical director behind her, and her own stage-craft, vivacity and enthusiasm, she lifted the whole cast to the heights of excellence.

And as one star takes her leave, another would seem to be arising to take her place- Heidi Cole as the stage-struck Katie Brown showed all the signs of the excellence we have seen in Annette Moore.

She acted well, expressed herself well, she was mobile, uninhibited, and natural in her demonstrations of emotion.

Miss Cole, indeed, deserves an Oscar for the best supporting player.

There was a strong male representation, too, with Steven England as Wild Bill Hickock, talking, acting and singing very well indeed, and providing an excellent and well-understood support for Annette Moore’s Calamity.

Also good was Michael Killoran as Lieut. Danny Gilmartin, on whom the boisterous Calamity’s affections first alight, but who falls for the very real charms of Katie Brown in the person of Heidi Cole.

First class, too, were David Blyth, as the saloon owner, Susan Carpenter as his niece, and Andrew Killoran as the song and dance man, Francis Fryer. All of them promise well for the future, and one looks forward to their progress in coming productions of the society.

Kevin Pope as Rattlesnake, the stage coach driver, wonderfully made up, and walking with that well matured Western gait, gave a very pleasing cameo performance. Other parts were nicely performed by Colin Dance, Roderick Pettigrew, Paul Trevelyan, Dennis Waller, Nigel Wright and Christine Blyth.

And what a hit the can-can dancers were- Pam Hancock, Elsa Bartlett, Sally Rose, Jane Kavanagh, Gabrielle Kevern, Sarah Matson, Linda Pidgeon, Caroline Drew, Anne Germon and Sarah Kevern.

The Stage-Door-Johnnies- Trevor Brice, Bill Edmunds, Stephen Fiander and Mark Smith- were good too.

The Chorus work was excellent and their singing of “Black Hills” well deserved the encore that was shouted for and received -by the audience. Well-loved songs “Deadwood Stage”, and “Windy City” were wonderfully treated by soloists and chorus and the very tuneful “Secret Love” was quite movingly sung. Sensitive and skilful accompaniment was provided by Ann Osborne and Gladys Lawes at two Pianos, by Reginald Ball(double bass) and by Graham White(Drums).

There were eight scene changes, with five different scenes, stage managed by Bill Carpenter. David Whitehead’s lighting was on a par with the rest of the production, as was the rest of the work done by the boys and girls backstage. The Society has entered “Calamity Jane” in the Butlin Awards for the amateur stage- it was judged at the Wednesday evening performance- and if it doesn’t win a high award in that competition, this is one critic that will eat his old and very-much-used hat.