Calamity Jane - October 2014



When the Deadwood Stage came a-rollin' into the Bristol Hippodrome this week with its stagecoach curtain a-flappin’ it was Jodie Prenger a-slappin those reins not Doris Day.

For many people (me included) Jodie is still the big gal from Blackpool who won the I’ll Do Anything BBC reality show.

I think I went along with the same doubts the producers had when television viewers chose her to play Nancy in the West End show Oliver! way back in 2008.

Yet Jodie made the part of Calamity Jane her own for as well as portraying the all-singing and all-dancing cowgirl with aplomb her comedic timing and character acting were superb.

Despite extensive diets Jodie is still no size 10 and she isn’t as chocolate box pretty as the iconic Doris Day so would the audience like her as Calamity?

Well when the curtains opened onto a smoky saloon with the gun-totting buckskin-wearing cowgirl that is Calamity standing there I initially thought 'oh no this isn’t going to work'.

How wrong was I.

And soon I was a-lovin’ it as was the Tuesday night theatre fans.

Doris Day said in an interview it was her favourite role.

She said: “I loved portraying Calamity Jane, who was a rambunctious, pistol-packing prairie girl - I lowered my voice and stuck out my chin a little.”

And that’s what Jodie does – take it on the chin and both wow and woo her admirers and detractors on and off the stage.

In the first half the physically of the part seemed to take its toll and Jodie appeared to be huffin’ and a puffin’ but as the show went on she found a second wind and she got better and better.

Friends at the first night in Bristol agreed.

Portishead receptionist Alison Walker said: “A unique performance where the cast demonstrated their talents with strong acting abilities and 

“The cast were so proficient when using them that all the instruments blended into the storyline so cleverly told. 

“The characters personalities were depicted brilliantly by the cast.

“Not only did their enormous energy provoke audience participation at times, but held everyone's attention from beginning to finish. 

“A standing ovation at the end showed how much appreciation everyone felt for their couple of hour’s splendid entertainment.”

The music is memorable especially the words of Dark Hills of Dakota – the ultimate love song for the homesick;  the static wooden set works whether it is the saloon bar, an isolated country cabin won in a poker game or with a few lighting changes the windy city of Chicago and the actors make stagecoach silhouette move at a rhythmic gallop.

It seems wrong to single anyone out as this is a great troupe but I will give a special mention to Phoebe Street as would-be showgirl Katie Brown and Rob Delaney who shines Francis Fryer.

A tall story based on fact and fiction this a family show that theatre fans shouldn’t miss.

From the moment Calamity Jane rides into Deadwood, South Dakota as shotgun messenger on the stagecoach to the mistaken owner of the Golden Garter booking a male performer instead of a famous showgirl, Indian chases, cowgirl power and pout after mixed love messages it does have a happy ever after finale.

Calamity Jane 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 and she struggles to keep her jealousy and pride in check.  It takes her long-standing enemy Wild Bill Hickok to make her see sense, and realise her Secret Love…

Calamity Jane plays Bristol until Saturday, October 25.

Carol Deacon

musical accomplishment with the majority playing a selection of instruments throughout the show. 

“This provided us with a more intimate experience which contributed to the smooth and seamless experience.

“Jodie Prenger made Calamity her own with her great comic timing and musical range especially her interpretation of Secret Love.

“Her on stage partner Tom Lister of Emmerdale fame Wild Bill Hickok is the perfect foil for Calamity's sometimes over-zealous storytelling.

“This show does not disappoint – I really enjoyed the evening.”

Nailsea Town Council chairman Clare Hunt was also sitting in the stalls.

She said: “From the start of the performance, when a single banjo appeared on stage, the audience realised not just the music but the instruments making the music were at the heart of this production of Calamity Jane.