No matter how you entered the Belvoir theatre, Richard Carroll’s production of Calamity Jane is bounds to have you leaving the theatre feeling better. It’s refreshing to go to the theatre and just enjoy a show as much as Calamity Jane. The show isn’t trying to do too much or force feed an overt message, although interlaced within the story are important messages about femininity, body positivity and women’s roles in society. Sometimes, the morals and ideals can be a tad archaic, yet the new rendition of this classic tale doesn’t fall into the easy trap of presenting outdated views by putting an interesting and engaging new twist on this story.
Calamity Jane follows the story of a small western town - Deadwood - where the local girl Calamity Jane returns home from a hunting trip. She shares exciting tales of the adventures she encountered on her trips, but when some of the townsmen don’t believe her, she goes on a mission to prove herself to the men and the love of her life - Danny played by Matthew Pearce. Calamity embarks on a journey to Chicago to bring superstar Adelaide Adams back to Deadwood for a performance, however when she brings home the wrong Adelaide Adams, chaos unfolds.
While the story itself is interesting, it is this rendition of the classic musical by director Richard Carroll that enraptures the audience throughout. What really sold Calamity Jane was the actors’ performances and the musical numbers.
The music was not only beautifully directed by Nigel Ubrihien but sung melodiously by the cast. The depth and volume of their voices and the versatility that they had gave the impression of having a full ensemble behind them, despite only being eight actors. In addition, most of the actors performed live instruments during the performance as well.
What is most commendable about this production is the actors’ ability to seamlessly interact with the audience, some of whom were seated on stage. It created a unique experience for audience members and garnered some of the funniest moments in the play. Special mention must go to Virgina Gay in her role as Calamity, for her quick wit and hilarious interactions with audience members, however all of the actors were able to break the fourth wall without dropping character or escaping from the world of Deadwood. Gay’s performance of Calamity was adorable, heartbreaking and just so refreshing to watch. She brought so much energy and excitement it left audience members smiling the entire time.
Trent Suidgeest’s lighting in the Belvoir upstairs theatre was a highlight of the show. From the chandelier that helped give the southern vibe or the atmospheric lighting during scene changes or musical numbers, it really grounded the audience in the onstage happenings and brought a reality to the performance.
While theatre can often be a stage for difficult issues presented in excruciating detail, Calamity Jane reminds us of the potential joy and beauty of live performance. Just as the cast were able to show how much fun they were having, it was impossible for the audience not to feel swept up in the infectiousness of it all.
Calamity Jane is on at Belvior Theatre until September 30.