by Terrance Mc Arthur
Louise is back, and GCP’s got ‘er!
Seven years ago, the Good Company Players presented Calamity Jane, based on the Doris Day musical film, at Roger Rocka’s. Instead of using all local talent, the starring role was played by Louise Mandrell, country singer and part of the Mandrell Sisters. She was really, really good.
That’s right, folks! GCP has brought back the show, and Louise Mandrell has returned! (You may applaud, cheer, and whistle.) What’s more, some of the performers who gave Mandrell so much support in 2012 are there, again! (Yippee!)
Calamity Jane (Mandrell) has a hate-hate relationship with Wild Bill Hickock (Ted Nunes), and has a crush on a U.S. Cavalry lieutenant (Shawn Williams). When a promised performer (Teddy Maldonado) at a local saloon turns out to not be what the local miners expected, Calamity promises to go to Chicago and bring back a pin-up woman of the menfolk’s dreams to the Black Hills of Dakota, but she gets someone else (Emily Pessano). Love quadrangles (one more than a triangle) ensue, but don’t worry—Doris Day would never have been part of something that didn’t have a happy ending.
The classic Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster songs from the movie are there—”Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack-Away),” “I Can Do Without You,” “A Woman’s Touch,” “The Black Hills of Dakota,” and the beloved “Secret Love”—along with a passel of songs that were written for the film but never used.
Mandrell is a source of energy that could power a good-sized city. She sings, she kicks, she does acrobatic moves that people half her age would find challenging, and she plays instruments—banjo, harmonica, accordion, and lightning-fast fiddle—and does it all with a smile and a look of joy. She loves what she’s doing, and it makes the audience feel good. Age is not a factor here, but, even though the real-life Calamity Jane was the ultimate tomboy, I would have liked a little more color to her cheeks in the first act. After the finale, she cranks it up into overdrive and gives the crowd an encore that even impresses the cast. This lady is showbiz, baby!
Nunes is tall and jolly as the Wild West figure who antagonizes Calamity until they both fall in love. He packs a lot of feeling into songs like “Higher Than a Hawk,” his voice soaring like a majestic bird.
Emily has that sparkle in anything she does that makes her a good choice for any role. As Katie, the backstage dresser who becomes the golden girl of the wilderness, she harnesses those vibrant vocal chords of hers to her comedy chops, never overshadowing the star, a balancing act worthy of a Golden Ticket on America’s Got Talent.
Williams looks dashing as Lt. Danny Gilmartin, and he’s all grown up and mature from those years with the GCP Junior Company. Dan Pessano returns as the saloon owner, the Valley’s clown-prince doing a master class in comic timing. Maldonado shines as the unwanted actor who becomes part of the community. Abigail Nolte shows regal snobbery as the music-stage diva who inadvertently gives her chance at being a star.
Laurie Pessano directs the show again. They say love is lovelier the second time around; she proves that theatre can be lovelier, too.
Hitch up the buggy and sashay down to the Tower District for a rootin’-tootin’ time at the Dinner Theatre—and I recommend the buttermilk pie.
Calamity Jane plays through September 15 at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon at Olive Ave. Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling the box office at (559) 266-9494.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can also find the podcast on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.
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