Calamity Jane Review

Calamity Jane – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East


Writer: Charles K Freeman

Music: Sammy Fain

Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster

Director: Nikolai Foster


Calamity Jane whip cracks her way into Darlington this week.

On the face of it, Calamity Jane shouldn’t be a heroine. ‘Careless with the Truth’ and a stranger to a bar of soap, she is petulant, has tantrums, is obsessive and has jealous rages and is played perfectly by Jodie Prenger. For those who don’t know the story of Martha Jane Cannary, she and Wild Bill Hickok were real 19th Century Wild West characters. 1953 saw the release of the film version, while the first theatre production was staged in the 1960’s and this well-known story has been doing the rounds ever since.

With fine dance routines coupled with Fain and Webster’s great songs such as ‘Deadwood Stage’, ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’, ‘Windy City’ and Oscar winning ‘Secret Love’, musical theatre fans should be in seventh heaven here.

There are no scene changes, just great utilization of the available space and multi-functioning props. For example, turning a piano into a stagecoach in five seconds flat is most ingenious.

Tom Lister shakes off his soap persona and gives an outstanding performance as Wild Bill Hickok. His two jaw dropping moments are his beautiful solo guitar rendition of ‘Higher than a Hawk’ and when Bill loses a bet and dresses as Queen Victoria.

The story is driven by mistaken identity and Calamity’s obsession and jealousy. Mistake number one is when actor Francis Flyer (the very versatile and talented Bobby Delaney) turns up to perform in Deadwood when the townsfolk are expecting Frances the actress. Calamity then gets obsessive and jealous of Danny Gilmartin’s (Alex Hammond) adoration of actress Adelaide Adams. Desperate to impress, Calamity goes to Chicago to bring back Adelaide to perform. The second mistake is when Adelaide’s dresser Katie Brown (talented Phoebe Street) pretends to be Adelaide and returns to Deadwood to perform in the town.

And so begins a romance, with Bill liking Katie, Calamity liking Danny and Danny and Katie liking each other. Calamity’s obsessive jealousy and temper drives Katie out of town but in true heroine style, Calamity saves the day which makes way for a happy ending in classic musical style.

There were a few niggles in Darlington, the surprisingly small cast are all multi-talented, singing, dancing and acting and playing the musical instruments. But sadly the musical talent over-shadowed the singing in the first half, but thankfully this was rectified in the second. Prenger’s American accent travelled as widely as the Deadwood Stage, and at some points if felt like we were watching a one tribute to Hylda Baker instead of Doris Day.

Nevertheless, the sold out audience in Darlington loved the show, clapping and singing along and to give a standing ovation at the end.