It is always a delight to hear youngsters singing or to witness their interpretation of dramatic art; the greater when those elements are combined, as in the musical; the greater yet when they are performed within the disciplines of a school environment and under the direction of a talented and experienced teacher. Miss Goswell, of the Ashcombe School in Dorking, has recently won a teacher-of-the-year award for her contribution to the medium. "Calamity Jane" was her twenty-sixth presentation. I was privileged to enjoy some of her earliest work. Her "Patience" (which I attended three times) was, for my money, the finest Gilbert and Sullivan ever performed on any stage. There has been too long an interval in my patronage.
If "Patience" reached the peak of perfection, "Calamity" was not without its youthful shortcomings, not least within the singing voices of its two principals. Jane was obviously chosen for her acting ability (awesome in one so young) and Bill will have a lovely voice when it has finished developing. Some of the acting was wooden or, alternatively, over-the-top, but "Calamity" is, after all, an "over-the-top" kind of show and nothing detracted from the wonder of the youthful enthusiasm and general vocal competence. Imagine having so much talent to draw upon that you can field three separate complete female choruses!
Our "contact" O.D.S. member, Natasha Figg, was in one of those choruses, but she and everyone else had been taught that minor roles do not diminish the responsibility for full participation. The acting and the joyous facial expressions were not allowed a moment's respite. Oh, and let us not forget the magnificent (full) school orchestra.
First among equals but deserving of special mention are Jessica Rudd as a formidable Jane, Rosie Apps as her sidekick, Matt Lawton as the saloon-keeper (a little fella with a king-size personality) and (definitely watch this space!) Simon Fellingham as the song-and-dance man.
All in all, a humbling experience for an all-too-modest director about to raise the curtain on his very first endeavour involving youngsters of a similar age group.