I challenge anyone to go and see this show and not come away humming one of the songs. The original 1953 film starring Doris Day remains a popular family classic and it’s a firm favourite for amateur musical societies.
Set in the Wild West Calamity Jane is a rootin’ tootin’ showstopper of a musical that sees our heroine find out that for all her tomboyish ways, deep down she thinks like a female, falls in and out of love and gets jealous. Bill Hickok has a point…
With well-known songs The Deadwood Stage, My Secret Love and The Black Hills of Dakota, the current version of Calamity Jane stars I’d Do Anything winner Jodie Prenger. While she couldn’t be more different from Doris, she is actually fantastic in this role. Her voice is strong and rich, her acting believable and her characterisation of the role excellent.
Her chemistry with Tom Lister (Wild Bill Hickok) is very believable and their performance of I Can Do Without You is brilliantly done, although their relationship is less obvious once they admit they’re in love. Lister however is the perfect Bill – tall, dark and handsome but rugged. His rendition of Higher Than a Hawk is incredibly powerful and a lot of women in the audience sighed longingly at the end!
Phoebe Street as Katie Brown is charming – she’s innocent and pretty, but her voice is lovely and her friendship with Prenger is clear to see. Christina Tedders also stands out for her brief performance as Adelaide Adams which is haughty yet beautiful.
The staging is a bit disappointing – not in quality, as the Golden Garter is very detailed – and I know it’s a touring production, but a bit more variety would have given the production a bit more depth. Still, the stagecoach is done well – think Fagin and his boys in Oliver! – and no doubt Prenger was quite at home here.
It’s not a perfect production by any means, but the fact that the cast play their own instruments really adds to the overall theatrical effect and it’s a unique take on this show.
A funny, catchy and genuinely feel-good show – Calamity Jane appeals to adults, children and the young-at-heart. I really tried not to, but I might possibly have sung along. But then so did everybody else! A well-deserved standing ovation.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Calamity Jane is playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 21 March 2015 and then on tour around the UK until August where it will end at the Richmond Theatre. Click here for tour dates and tickets.