Cracking the whip for fun

Calamty Jane

Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane and Tom Lister as Wild Bill Hickok. Picture: Manuel Harlan

 Calamity Jane

Malvern Theatres

****

AS musicals go, many people have a secret love for Calamity Jane. That's not just due to an impressive score of foot-thumping songs but also the affectionate way she was portrayed in the film starring likeable Doris Day.

Filling Calam's boots in this latest production with plenty of southern drawl and humour is Jodie Prenger, who made her name on BBC1's I'd Do Anything and went on to win the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh's stage version of Oliver!

It helps that Prenger, like Day, features high on the likeability factor (she was voted Favourite Reality TV Star of 2008 by readers of TV Times) and has a marvellous voice, so you are always willing her on through all her well-meaning but disastrous escapades in the wild west frontier town of Deadwood.

The story follows tomboy Calamity Jane as she heads off to Chicago to bring back a famous showgirl to perform in Deadwood but ends up bringing the wrong person back.

Through the journey, there's identity mix-ups, shoot-outs and love triangles galore plus fiery arguments between Calamity and the hunky thorn in her side, Wild Bill Hickok, which leads to the wonderful song I Can Do Without You.

Playing Wild Bill is Tom Lister, the one-time baddie in Emmerdale, who is a suitably towering, sultry lead and has a fantastic chemistry with Prenger. He also impresses playing the guitar while singing a dreamy version of My Heart Is Higher Than a Hawk.

Adding another bonus to this production is the way all the actors are also musicians, playing the music live on stage while dancing and singing. It gives a wild west yee haa hoe-down feel to it all.

The only drawback is that the tour features such an intricate stage that it doesn't change like many a lavish musical these days, but efforts are made to adapt it to different scenarios.

But with fine performances and songs like Secret Love, The Windy City and The Black Hills of Dakota sung in such a rousing way, you'll be whip crack-away with happiness. To 06-12-14

Alison Brinkworth

O1-12-14 

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