The Cheriton Players local amateur theatre group had their 60th anniversary in 2021, and after a one-year Covid delay they were able to celebrate in style with their production of Calamity Jane last week.

Although Calamity Jane the movie was released in 1953, the musical was first produced in 1961, performed in Texas USA, so in 2021 it too was celebrating its 60th anniversary. In its time it was a ground breaking film about a strong woman in a man’s world, but in the end it’s a love story with fits of passion and jealousy, as well as wonderful tender moments, themes that are perfectly relevant 60 years on. Considering the history, the story and well-loved songs like ‘Deadwood Stage’, ‘Windy City’, ‘Black Hills of Dakota’ and ‘Secret Love’, Calamity Jane was clearly the perfect show for the occasion.

Cheriton Village Hall is The Players’ usual show venue but the scale of this show required something bigger that could also provide a “western theme” and so local farmer Mark Cheney (of Middle Farm, Cheriton) provided a large empty barn, the perfect blank canvas to work from. Converting a completely empty barn into a theatre venue was no small undertaking, and so the team embarked on the not insignificant tasks of building a stage, then set, installing sound and lights and prepping front of house car-parking, seating, bar etc. The end result was a venue with a fantastic western style set completely integrated into the rural barn setting.

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The show itself comprised a cast of 22 amateur actors and singers from the Cheriton/Winchester/ Alresford/Petersfield areas all led by director Tracey Anderson.

Tracey said, “I was proud to have the opportunity to direct this performance. Whilst I had a responsibility to put on a show, I also wanted to give performers the opportunity grow and develop and to push themselves. We had a cast ranging from their teens to their 80s, we had new members, we had to get actors to sing and singers to act and to bring it all together into a quality 2.5-hour show. It was a big task, but in the end the cast delivered beautifully. All of the cast were fantastic led by Claire Smith as Calamity Jane and Ben Gander as Wild Bill Hickok. Claire’s performance of ‘Secret Love’ guaranteed a tear to the eye of any listener. We had 5 sell-out shows and the feedback was fantastic”.

In keeping with the 60th anniversary theme and a “not-so-Secret-Love”, it was back in that year 1961 that Pauline Cornter first joined The Cheriton Players, at the time a girl guide helping with the interval refreshments. A few years later she met her now husband Mike Cornter during rehearsals and they have performed with the group ever since. Today, 61 years later, they were both on stage in this show.

You can read more about this show and future productions on the Cheriton Players website here

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