Virginia Gay was performing in Calamity Jane in Canberra last week, when a woman in the audience implored her to stop.
"I have tonsilitis! You'll kill yourself," the woman cried out from her seat at the Golden Garter Saloon.
To be fair, Gay, who plays the eponymous heroine, was about to skoll the woman's beer - an action that usually results in strident intervention in most pubs, let alone saloons.
Instead the woman was engaging in an act of theatre preservation - she was trying to ensure Gay's tonsils remain untickled as she prepares for the show's Sydney homecoming. ("Thank you, ma'am. Thank you. And with that, the @BelvoirSt season can go ahead. Near Miss Gay, that's what they call me", the actor tweeted after the event.)
It has been two years since Calamity Jane premiered at the Hayes Theatre Company in Potts Point in 2016 as part of a "neglected musicals" reading. A two-night run had turned into seven nights when Gay and director Richard Carroll were persuaded by Hayes powerhouse couple David and Lisa Campbell to turn it into a full show.
That opened in 2017, promptly sold out its six-week run to rave reviews, picked up Gay the best female performer in a musical at the Sydney Theatre Awards before hitting the road this year on a regional tour that looped in Melbourne and Canberra.
Now it's at Belvoir, where it will soon clock up its 100th performance.
"We feel like we're the little show that could and we're so proud of it for that reason," says Gay, who is standing outside the rehearsal room for Opera Australia's production of Evita. ("If Tina Arena walks past, I'm going to lose my shit.")
"We're not a big multinational, we don't have enormous amounts of money and we're doing it on a shoestring budget - and that is part of the appeal for us.
"We're very much a ragtag bunch. We're the show who could - we took a risk on it, we hoped it would work and it did."
Based on the 1953 musical starring Doris Day, Calamity Jane is loosely based on the adventures of the real-life Wild West heroine who recruits entertainer Katie Brown for the Golden Garter before becoming entangled with Wild Bill Hickok.
Calamity is very much a woman who lives and loves by her own rules, but it's the musical's famous queer subplot - where Calamity and Katie end up living together, one dressed as a man, the other as a woman and singing the song A Woman's Touch - that has been an unexpected boon for Gay.
"I can't tell you what a thrill it is to play a boyish masculine character," says Gay. "When I was doing [TV show} Winners and Losers it would be an hour-and-half make-up call every day, usually at 5am.
"So the idea of sailing in, wearing the world's most comfortable pants, the world's most comfortable shoes - not a high heel in sight - barely any foundation, smearing dirt on my face and just putting away my hair enough to get it out of my face, is my ideal way to live. This is how all theatre should be."
Calamity Jane is at Belvoir Street Theatre until September 30.
Louise is the editor of S and the Sun Herald's TV liftout