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Calamity Jane as presented by Newcastle West Musical Society

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Calamity Jane as presented by Newcastle West Musical Society

2nd – 4th November and 9th – 11th November 2023


Date of Adjudicated Performance: Thursday 2nd November 2023

A lovely atmosphere greeted me in the foyer of the Community Hall, and I was warmly welcomed by Brigid Madigan and the front of house team upon my arrival. 

A massive stage, a lively atmosphere, a full house, and a lovely Orchestra set the tone for an evening where the local community comes together. They put on their annual show and it is obvious to the audience both local or visitor what a really lovely welcoming Society this is and what talent resides in the area that is Newcastle West. There is a real sense of family in this lovely Society, and I was immediately struck by their genuine hospitality, kindness and pure friendliness.  

Direction under Ms Susan Browne was assured and in good hands.  I always think that set creation and the vison that a director has beforehand on how to present any show is of key importance. I felt Ms Browne got this right. Attention to detail is what springs to mind especially in each set change and a lot of this is also down to the teamwork backstage under Tom Madigan. The Golden Garter Saloon was especially well done in both direction and sets. Good casting and a talented crew to direct ensured this was a successful production. All the principals stayed in character throughout and the change in Calamity was very well directed.  Costumes were good and in period and visually the show was kind on the eye. 

Choreography and Chorus Mistress was also the responsibility of Ms Browne.  Not an easy task.  Choreography was rehearsed well, and all cast were knowing of their movements and very assured.  Coupled with some cameo acting and a few funny moments the choreography was good. I always feel that for direction and choreography to be taken by one person it is very hard to excel at both. 

I thought there were some lovely moments in some numbers as mentioned – “Whip Crack Away” and “The Black Hills of Dakota” were highlights, and reading through this adjudication, you will identify areas in particular that stood out due to your hard work.   Well done. 

The show opened with a lovely sounding Orchestra under the Musical Direction of the very capable and talented Mr Michael Young. The musicians, namely Mr Young as MD and playing piano, Drums Andrew Dowling, Bass Guitar John Sheedy, Violin, Catherine Horgan and Flute Chris Young and this was a lovely team, and a pleasure to listen to from the word go. A great start. I settled into my seat sat back and relaxed after the long drive from Wexford and very quickly within a few moments of the starting I was in for a real treat. The Opening Chorus of “Whip Crack Away” was very good, and the male chorus of youth - an envy of many musical societies sang with gusto, and this balance was maintained throughout the show. Well done to the Chorus here with its beautiful sound and lots of smiles. Musical interludes by the Orchestra between set changes were very good. A very good Job Mr Young. 

The Sets particularly the Golden Garter Saloon set was extremely well done and looked superb. I loved the attention to detail in each set change. A lot of thought went into the creation of this Set – keeping in mind this Society operate on a voluntary basis as mentioned above, and I found out later this with this complete set for the show, many of the Set pieces worked as a dual purpose and this very cleverly done. Thank you to Stage Manager Mr Tom Madigan for giving me a full tour of backstage and full credit the work undertaken by you and your team to bring this story to life. Exceptional work in quite a confined space backstage. 

Also, given that it was opening night there wasn’t to my eye any obvious flaw in the set and the operation of changing scenes etc, so huge congratulations Mr Madigan as Stage Manager, and the Stage Management crew, of Mr Madigan, Brendan Burke & Keith Massey for Set Design and Construction. A great team.

Lighting by Brendan Burke and Brendan Normoyle ( noting that Mr Burke– is also involved in the Set Construction ) was appropriate and very well done with great use of clever lighting in many of the scenes which added so much to the overall performance. The beautiful lighting on Calamity throughout the show was lovely. 

Sound was by Altec was very good, but I did feel could have been stronger in one or two scenes particularly in the scenes with Calamity in Act 1. However generally overall the sound was clear and travelled down the hall and radio mikes worked well. 

I loved Calamity’s costumes throughout and indeed the whole cast were dressed well. Of period in general and with all the lights on in ensemble numbers it looked quite the picture. 

Golden Garter Stage with all cheering and clapping with the Golden Gate girls- great costumes wonderful smiles and a super visual with the costumes, tights, shoes and dresses. This was a highlight of the show for me. I loved this scene.  Well done to Corinna, Helen, Caroline Walsh, Pat McGann Costumes and last but not least, Caroline Daly.  By name alone you brought a smile to my face!!

Make up on all cast was appropriate and especially well done on Calamity again.  Costumes and make up really helped Therese Prendiville get into the part, I’m sure. Congratulations to the full team. 

Calamity Jane was played as mentioned by Therese Prendiville. Ms Prendiville had very good expression and worked the stage and interacted with the other characters very well. Costume was very appropriate, and this young lady played the part with gusto – a really tomboy but then in the 2nd Act comes into her own as a beautiful young lady who falls in love and the contrast here for Ms Prendiville was extremely well done. I loved the song “Careless with The Truth” sung by Calamity with beautiful gentle sound from the Chorus and with lights down and the lights up again when the Chorus were singing the rest of the number. 

An assured voice and well suited to the part I really enjoyed Ms Prendiville’s interpretation especially in the second half. Calamity here is much stronger in the 2nd half of the show. You really did come into your own. 

“I Can Do Without You”” performed by Calamity and Wild Bill Hilcock was a lovely duet and sung beautifully by this couple who looked great together on stage. They both brought out in the best in each throughout the show. Not an easy thing to achieve but you did. 

I did miss some of Calamity’s dialogue and could not make out some of words when speaking and in her singing, I did feel sometimes the Orchestra may have been a little too loud for her vocals particularly on the higher notes.  As mentioned earlier regarding sound, this is such an important part and on performance nights it is an easy thing to ensure sound is clear and loud enough, but the balance must exist for principal players.  

Finally, “Secret Love” – Calamity’s highlight of the show was so lyrical, emotional and sung from her heart. I have a soft spot for this particular song myself but this young lady here in this scene pulled out all the stops and sang it beautifully. I could have listened to it and Black Hills again and again. 

Wild Bill Hickock was played by Charlie O’Connell, and I immediately had a fondness for this gentleman in his singing and acting and his love and respect for Calamity. Mr O’Connell has a really sweet lyrical voice, and I liked his character very much in both singing and acting. There was a lovely rapport between himself and Calamity throughout the show and I liked that. Well done Mr O’Connell. 

Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin was played by Padraig O’Shea. What a strong character, very pleasant on stage, lovely singing voice and lovely stage movement and singing throughout. 

Francis Fryer played by Denis Ahern was a lovely actor. He looked great and is obviously no stranger to the stage, he had a lovely stage presence. WHAT an entrance as a woman! Great costume and beautifully played. 

“Doc Pierce” was played by John Young. What a lovely character. Lovely humour though subtle when he is pouring whiskey into the Lieutenants wound (played by Padraig O’Shea) and then knocking back the rest himself drew a huge laugh from the audience. 

Also, I would like to mention in particular the Golden Garter Saloon Owner Mr Henry Miller played beautifully by Mr Eamonn O’Connor. Every single time he came on stage he looked flustered, he was anxious, he looked like he had palpitations and portrayed so well that he was a very highly strung and sweaty character – so very funny, this was a beautiful cameo role and I loved both Mr O’Connor’s character, his caring empathy and his near hysteria when Frances Fryer was not indeed a lady! I looked forward each time to seeing this gentleman come on stage and I really enjoyed this character. Well done. 

Katie Brown who is Adelaide Adams personal dresser really impressed me with her singing and her acting and her character. She was honest, shy, lacking in confidence and pretending to be Adelaide just to get her chance to be on stage. However, Ms Walsh did not need to be anybody except herself in this show and this was a lovely part, with a magnificent singing voice and lovely stage presence. Your vocal range I’m sure is the envy of many and your tone and balance were perfect.  And in Act 2 where Calamity and Katie Brown duet with “A Woman’s Touch” these voices were perfectly in sync and produced a stunning sound. I wanted to hear more. So very well done to both of you here. Katies dresses were lovely, the set inside the log cabin decorated with gingham curtains and the tablecloth and the basket of logs and the little picture on the way, along with the flowerpots were beautiful attention to detail I wanted to go up on stage and sit down by the fire myself and have a chat and sing with you! (Daffodils are my favourite flower!) Lovely, lovely number and the perfect scene. Well done. 

Adelaide Adams played by Eileen Collins was a striking stage appearance with a voice with good control lovely range and a gorgeous costume. She performed her part well with some lovely acting. 

Other parts played by Joseph O’Connor ‘ Rattlesnake’ , Ollie Noonan as Joe, Rian Lynch as Hank , Padraig Doherty as Pete and finally John Collins as the Colonel were all played well and with assuredness.  Well done all.  

The Chorus singing the Black Hills of Dakota lifted the roof and in my own opinion the strongest number of the show. The sound bounced off the walls, the harmonies were perfect and every single member of the audience including myself sang along. I absolutely loved everything about this number. A little piece of perfect that I will not forget for a long time. Even now as I’m writing I can see you all as you were for this number. A tour de force. Fabulous showstopper. Bravo!

The American Flag scene change for the Ball and the couples arriving on stage was a lovely scene. Just one thing I noticed was the scene was a tiny bit tired or flat in the beginning of it however I am very aware that this was your opening night, and I must and have to take that into consideration and I do. It was just an observation of my own. 

You are a very good chorus and a credit to the Society.  No show can exist without its chorus and the diligence, vocal ability, movement and beautiful smiles is present in abundance. Well done chorus. 

The finale was a true gauge of how your opening night went overall. “Whip Crack Away, “was a superb choice and the bows were very well done – in fact bows were lovely. And a well-deserved standing ovation by the audience at the end was an apt way to close your first night. Well done.

Caroline Daly Jones, Sullivan Adjudicator

Some photos below kindly shared by the society to accompany the review!

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