Calamity Jane Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 12 May 2015

Calamity Jane whip crack aways 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 WIld Bill Hickok were real 19th Century Wild West characters.

The film of Calamity Jane was released in 1953 and the first stage production in the 1960s. This well-known story has been doing the rounds 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 were no scene changes, just great utilization of the available space and multi-functioning props. Turning a piano into a stagecoach in five seconds flat – 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.  Mistake number two 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 Calamity saves the day and a happy ending ensues

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 the musical talent over-shaddowed the singing in the first half but this was rectified in the second.  And 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

But the sold out audience in Darlington, loved the show, clapping and singing along and giving a standing ovation at the end