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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
While the interpretation of the Wild West is firmly ensconced in the 1950s, sexism and anti-Native American attitudes prevailing, the tunes are simply wonderful. "Secret Love" won an Oscar for best original film song, but songs such as "The Black Hills of Dakota", "Windy City" and "The Deadwood Stage" have also become classics.
The story tells of an Indian Scout, Calamity Jane (Toyah Willcox), a gun toting, hard riding woman, heroine of several bold exploits and spinner of tall tales. She promises to bring a showgirl from Chicago to the town of Deadwood, but instead of the famous singing star Adelaid (Emma Dodd), she fetches her understudy, Katie Brown (Kellie Ryan). Katie causes a lot of excitement in Deadwood and threatens to steal both of Calamity's beaux, Wild Bill Hickok (Michael Cormick) and Lt Danny Gilmartin (Gary Kilby).
The characters of the town of Deadwood hang around for atmosphere, the saloon owner, the women, the prospectors, the soldiers. The mis-booked male saloon star Francis Fryer (Phil Ormerod) who is meant to be a woman, Frances Fryer, so as not to disappoint does a show in drag and almost creates a riot. However the real Chicago saloon dance scene starring the provocative Adelaid is about as raunchy as a Sunday School outing.
Toyah Wilcox puts an immense amount of energy into the role and a certain vigorous charm. She sings well although some of the early songs seemed underpowered and her American accent is passable, but I shall avoid the temptation to compare her with Doris Day. More at home in her Redskin outfit than a ball gown, her performance is full of verve. Michael Cormick as Wild Bill Hickok is a find, he won a series of New Faces in his native Australia and his singing voice is superb.
The ensemble dance numbers are fun, often set against outstandingly pretty red-purple sunsets with the silhouetted famous Black Hills. I liked too the full size, authentic looking recreation of the Deadwood Stage which inspires the "Whip Crack away" song. Miniature houses light up at night to give an impression of the main street of Deadwood. This is a small budget musical which, should you miss, would not be a calamitous disaster.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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