No calamity about this show

Calamity Jane

The New Alexandra Theatre

***

CALAMITY Jane, a character based on a real frontierswoman and professional scout, was made timeless by Doris Day in the well-loved 1953 film.

In this stage adaptation Calamity once again touches the hearts of musical lovers. Jodie Prenger had big shoes to fill as she took the reigns as the larger than life tomboy, bringing all the old time Doris Day classics back to life with a superb ensemble in the punchy western musical.

To adapt the musical from its film original to the stage is no small task. Charles K. Freeman is the mastermind behind this to ensure that the story is just as magical as people remember. With great direction from Nikolai Foster, the  production was bursting with nostalgia and feel-good emotion.

We certainly were back in the hills of Dakota. The mid-19th century setting of the town of Deadwood was alluded to with excellent set and costume from Matthew Wright. This was the framework of what made the show so engaging. All transitions happened before the audiences eyes, and a great idea of ‘a theatre within a theatre’ created a platform for many settings.

Of course, like any good spirit-lifting musical, the show opens with an uplifting group number. The company set the story with Take me Back to the Black Hills and the audience could not help but join in. Immediately we were transported to another time, another era and became part of the small little town. There were smiles on the faces of many with an excitement growing for the story to unfold.

Although many performances were far from mind-blowing, most of the cast strived to keep the authenticity of the southern town alive. Thick southern states accents were a funny touch, as many tried too hard to master it. The most impressive factor is that the company were musicians in their own right, and each character played the beautiful melodies of the show on stage before us which integrated wonderfully into the performance.  The songs of Day and other classics in the film were truly celebrated as the cast took responsibility for delivering them.

Prenger was good and took command of the larger-than-life character in an engaging way.  She has a talent that spans both in her voice and on the stage. Her strong presence was clear throughout and gave justice to the character.
Another popular face was Emmerdale’s Tom Lister, playing Wild Bill, A fitting role for hate-turned-love story. It was clear to see that Prenger and Lister had trust in each other as performers although there was an ooops moment which lead to an embarrassing corpse after Prenger accidently kicked Lister in the face.
Both were impressive, but not entirely memorable in their portrayals.

The star of the show was Phoebe Street who played the shy and loveable Katie Brown. A beautiful singer and terrific performer, Street was the real driving force behind the entire company. A pleasure to watch, Street portrayed told the story of the interesting character with beautiful precision and injections of light-hearted silly humour. The transition from being a shy girl to becoming part of the town of Deadwood gave an uplifting and happy feel.

A brilliant performance was also given by Rob Delaney, playing Francis Fryer. He demonstrated a whole showful of talents. A class act at dancing and singing and also engaging us with numbers on the piano, he was also a strong actor giving life to his funny character.

This charming musical will have fans of the film flocking to the seats. The eye-popping set and those wonderful songs are well worth a visit. To 21-02-15

Elizabeth Halpin

18-02-15

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