“I just blew in from the windy city, the windy city is mighty pretty, but they ain’t got what we got.” No, they don’t, and aren’t we the lucky ones?
Bangalow locals can boast about many things: a tight-knit community with pride in everything they do. Sitting next to a local, proudly showing me the props he has supplied from his second-hand and vintage-wares shop, to make a stage setting that fits the Bill (pardon the pun) I see many familiar faces around me. The butcher, the baker and the candle-stick maker (well, maybe not the candle-stick maker, he probably makes sauerkraut and kimchi and his own honey, honey) but we are talking local, and with local comes enthusiasm and pride in a job well done. And Calamity Jane is a “job well done” on so many levels.
Firstly, the actual show almost belongs in the Bangalow environs, with whip-cracking and the sound of horses; the stage setting (did I mention the local props?) and the actual ‘band’ playing throughout the entire show, beating a tune to the age-old classics that come to represent not only the show, but the memory of the show, from the first note! Songs I didn’t know I knew – out there – how did that happen? Not alone, oh no, there were many singing along, also wondering how they knew the words to so many of the songs.
Calamity Jane (Joanne Connor, what a surprise) rides in on the coach, with many a story to tell (some porky-pies that would rival my neighbour’s stories) and the cast are ready with all their “ooh’s and aaah’s and tell us another one”. Sparring and bantering, ‘Wild’ Bill Hickok (Mick Webb, love your work) bandies around Calamity and adds fuel to her fire, inciting more stories, more dancing and more singing. Bring it on, Bill!
The cast, a motley crew, give it their all, and are so enthusiastic and engaging, the audience feels as if they are part of the show. We are positioned, after all, in the midst of it, on the same level as the performers! This is but another element I love about the acoustically-erect Bangalow A&I Hall – the room can be set up any which way for the benefit of the performers and audience alike.
Every performer is a star of their own making (tremendous effort by everyone) with classic facial expressions, voices lifted to give it their all, engaging the audience and drawing us in to their world.
The musicians are housed on the actual stage, giving it up to the cast and audience, providing authenticity with double bass (John Helman), drums (Jeff McGuiness), violin (Jim Stewart) and Margaret Curtis on keyboard. Wonderful show tunes; emotive and fun-loving with a generous serving of musical comedy. Brian Pamphilon, as the cross-dressing Francis Fryer, is Chaplinesque in his look and his delivery: Bravo, Brian, you are a hoot and a holler.
At interval, I spoke to Claire Atkins, the Creative Producer, and she told me that this was the first time Joanne Connor (Calamity Jane) has had a lead singing role! Surprised me – I thought Joanne must sing professionally and when she belted out “….now I shout it from the highest hills….” I assumed she did just that, for a living! Another nuance I love about local theatre – there is a surprise in every package, waiting to be unwrapped.
Local, yes, and a proud moment for all of us, being in this audience, watching the show unfold with a myriad of laughs, songs, dance routines and stage setting so convincing we could be in Deadwood, having a sasparilly with the cowboys and cowgirls, instead of with so many familiar faces (cast, crew and audience) looking around at each other, thinking, “I know you, aren’t you the…?”
Directed by Kate Foster, with a stellar cast supporting each other and making the show complete on every level, Calamity Jane provides musical-comedy relief and a reason to turn off the tele, get off the couch and get out there and see what your community is conjuring up. You might be surprised and inspired, like Wednesday night’s sell-out audience! Everyone loves a happy ending, the applause the benchmark of a successful show. Yeeha, “whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack away!”
Performers, also needing a thank you: Veronica Lovejoy, Dane Bodley, Clem Halpin, Danni Dwyer, Shane ‘Flash’ Hopper, Kate Jaggard, Joel Cooper, Robert Gibson, Tim Green, Owen Trevor Jones, Graeme Speed, Ellie Frances, Julie Haschemeyer, Sangeeta Jones, Charlotte Foster, Mia Green and Emma Graves.
Bangalow Theatre Company presents
Director Kate Foster
Venue: Bangalow A&I Hall | 3 Station Street, Bangalow NSW
Dates: 17 – 26 October 2019