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'Calamity Jane' showcases intriguing plot, animated cast

Calamity Jane, known to be a tough, hard drinker and flamboyant woman from the west in the late 1800’s, is a woman who has stories worth sharing. Her story is quite interesting and Roger Rocka’s theater decided to perform their comical rendition for all to see. The show is featuring country music star, Louise Mandrell as Calamity.

In order to reserve seats, you have to call up to a week in advance. The show is on stage from July 19-Sept. 16, however, as of now the tickets are sold out.

My expectation for the show was quite high because of the guest star and the positive things I had heard previous to my attending. People were commenting about how Louise portrayed Calamity and the singing in the musical was wonderful.

On my way to the theater I pondered the ideas of what was coming, trying to picture what I would see. When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by hospitable servers that showed me to a table where I was to be seated with other attendees.

At first I was anxious to be sitting with strangers, however, I was welcomed with smiles and questions about where I was from and so on. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed talking to the people at my table.

After some friendly conversation, a preppy server came over to ask me for my dessert order. I had so many options from cakes to ice cream, I could barely decide, so I orded four of the six optional desserts, which were supplied from Eddies Bakery.

Shortly after, the spunky grey-haired emcee entered on the stage and began with some jokes to get the crowd’s attention. After a few sarcastic remarks and good-natured digs, he cordially announced what to expect throughout the eventing. Using a witty sense of humor, he explained the rules such as the men’s restroom being given to the women during intermission.

So far I was having a wonderful time and by the time the emcee exited the stage, the theater felt like a small community. A group of adolescents gathered in a formation on the stage in matching slacks and white tee-shirts. At first I was a bit confused but the kids started singing an upbeat western song with synchronized dancing. They did a combination of old, current and popular songs, with dance moves to match. The whole crowd was cheering, smiling and laughing when appropriate.

Once the kids had finished their short introduction to the show, the lights dimmed. An excitement overtook my body and anticipation of what I was to witness flooded me. The curtains parted to reveal an old western saloon filled with a few men. Their costumes projected the era and overall emotion of the scene perfectly. I was expecting the accents to be horrific but much to my astonishment, their southern twang was convincing and on point.

A few minutes later, a few cast members came through the crowd and made their way towards the stage. At the front of the line was a small woman in men’s garb and a hat pilled on to conceal her face. As soon as she opened her mouth to speak, the audience erupted with whistles and applause. It had become clear to me that the woman was Calamity Jane.

The first act took off and the storyline started to develop. There were several issues consisting of star crossed lovers, confusion among townspeople and the main concern, finding an actress for the saloon.

Calamity was known for her exuberant and exaggerated stories, so when she offered to take up the task of picking up an actress named Francis, despite everyone doubting her capabilities and making jokes about it. When she arrived to pick up the actress, somewhere along the way there was a misunderstanding and instead of a famous woman, she brought back a maid.

The towns people were fooled for awhile, until the maid caved and revealed her true identity. There was some rejcection but over time, the town embraced the situation and Calamity actually developed a close relationship with the maid. Unfortunately, they were in love with the same man.

Just as the tension was building, the first act drew to a close. The lights came on and the line to the restrooms were never ending. There were conversations going on from all directions of the room and waiters and waitresses were bustling about delivering drinks and desserts.

After a 20 minute intermission, people returned to their seats and the second act began. I was expecting to lose intrest during this part of the show because I was quite tired and a bit sick from eating too many sweets. However, I was wrong. Rather that losing my intrest, I was drawn into the story every minute.

The stage was set really close to the audience and only raised about three feet form the ground, which made the show even more intriguing; the people in the crowd were able to feel as if they were a part of the show. The second act resolved many of the previous issues from act one and the characters ended up reconciling their differences.

At the end of the show, Mandrell came to the front of the stage and thanked everyone with a smile and warm tone. She benevolently explained how grateful she was to be able and be a part of the production.

Just as I thought the night was coming to a close, someone came from backstage and handed Mandrell a fiddle. Mandrell bagan to bust out some country tunes, the audience got out of their seats and clapped along and the cast members still on stage began to dance. People were hooting, hollering, whistling and smiling to the tune.

Following this, she thanked everyone again and announced she would be in the crowd in a few minutes to meet everyone. I was surprised at how polite and eager Mandrell was to meet her fans. It was refreshing to see everyone so happy and well off. After the exciting events had taken place, I exited the theater with a smile on my face and with memories to share.

The production of Calamity Jane surpassed my expectations and I would encourage you to attend and form your own opinion. It is a good experience for anyone, from large families to couples to a group of friends.

For more reviews, read the April 18 article, Special effects surprise audience in ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’

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