Blackpool’s finest Jodie Prenger has been whip cracking her way through a UK tour of Calamity Jane for nearly a year now and has finally managed to lasso herself ‘up North’ to play at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
The ‘Wild West’ musical, made famous by the 1953 film starring Doris Day, may not attract the youngest of audiences but it certainly brings in the crowds and Prenger’s name headlining also puts bums on seats. Another recognisable face in the cast is Tom Lister, better known to Emmerdale fans as Carl King. Lister puts in a fine performance as Bill Hickok and has a great onstage partnership with Prenger that makes the pair very watchable.
Calamity Jane is a gem of a role for Prenger who rose to fame in BBC1’s I’d Do Anything and although at times she’s a little more Dolly than Doris she lights up the stage and raises a smile and many a laugh from those watching.
For those who don’t know the story, Calamity Jane is a buckskin dressed gun-slinging gal who can outrun and outshoot any man in Deadwood. Hard, boastful and desperate to impress, she travels to Chicago to recruit a star, Adelaide Adams, for the Deadwood Stage. But things don’t go too smoothly for Calamity, as everyone in town favours the new girl even the man she has a crush on, Lieutenant Gilmartin. It takes her long-standing enemy Wild Bill Hickok to make her see sense, and possibily fall in love again.
What’s lovely about this production is that Director Nikolai Foster has made the decision to have all the cast members play a musical instrument onstage…
What’s lovely about this production is that Director Nikolai Foster has made the decision to have all the cast members play a musical instrument onstage, therefore omitting the need for the usual hidden orchestra pit. It’s a successful technique that has been used in a few shows recently such as Once and Love Story, highlighting the multi-talented ensemble (they can sing, dance, act and play instruments)!
Matthew Wright’s set of an a good ol’ music hall remains unchanged throughout despite the action moving to a number of different locations. Instead there’s a clever use of devices to help your imagination create places and turn a honky tonk piano into a stagecoach with some clever visuals and sound effects.
Compared to the modern musicals of today you could argue that Calamity Jane is a little old fashioned and twee but it still manages to rouse the audience with its rootin’ tootin’ dance routines and songs like ‘Secret Love’ and ‘Just Blew in From the Windy City’.
Runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 28th March.