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Just blew in from the Windy City — A review of Calamity Jane (2019)

Live at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre
Starring Virginia Gay, Laura Bunting, Anthony Gooley, Christina O’Neill, Rob Johnson, Matthew Pearce and Tony Taylor

I love musicals. I love musicals a lot. Most of my favourites come from the “golden age of musicals” — think Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra et al. One of my favourites from this particular period is Calamity Jane, which stars Doris Day as the eponymous character and Howard Keel as ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok. 

So it should go without saying that I was positively beside myself when I was gifted a ticket to see Calamity Jane live. And this wasn’t just any ticket. It wasn’t even a front row ticket. It was a freakin’ “you are sitting ON THE STAGE” ticket. Cut to actual footage of me.

So, how was it? In a word? Ah-MAY-zing. I don’t know if that counts as three words. The point is that it was an unbelievable experience and a delightful show.

Not only is the audience given the option to book a seat on the stage, but the cast frequently pop up in the audience and involve audience members in the narrative. The whole experience is delightfully immersive and I must admit being a little bit envious of the audience member who was given lines to read on the stage.

The audience interaction makes for some very funny moments but the show is just very funny in general. In the session I saw, I’m positive there were times that were improvised and that is one of my absolute favourite things about the theatre. Scripted humour is good but, when it lands, unscripted humour is great.

The entire cast did a phenomenal job, especially given that most of the actors played more than one role. The stand out for me was — rightfully so — Virginia Gay as Calamity Jane. Gay’s performance is captivating every time she is on the stage … or in the audience … or getting snacks. No, really. Someone give her all of the awards for this role. Then cast her in lots more things.

I cannot recommend Calamity Jane enough. If you’re in Australia and have a chance to check out this interactive and exciting take on the classic, you absolutely should. Did I mention you can sit on the stage? Because you can. 

Have you seen Calamity Jane live on stage? What was the last musical you saw live? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

– CJ