Calamity Jane

Sep 24 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Whip cracks along

Edinburgh Playhouse Tues 23 – Sat 27 October 2014

There ain’t no dead wood on the Playhouse stage this week as a sparkling Calamity Jane staring Jodie Prenger lights into town at the start of its long tour around the UK.

Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Based on the Doris Day film – with a handful of added songs – this new production whip cracks its way through Act 1. That the actors all play instruments, bringing the band on stage, ensures that energy levels are always high.

Even when things get down and sentimental in Act 2 this slips deliciously into a groove which lets the male leads show their emotions. Director Nikolai Foster clearly knows that even when things get quiet, the energy can still be tight.

Prenger is a near perfect Calamity Jane, one slight slip of the accent in an early scene apart – when it appeared that Calamity might be better aquainted with Ned Kelly than Wild Bill Hickok.

That she can do the songs justice is never in dispute. Whether it is leading the chorus in a gutsy Deadwood Stage and a Windy City, getting high and feisty with Tom Lister’s Bill Hickok in I Can Do Without You, or right down and resonant with her Secret Love, Prenger has the range and ability to do it all.

Nor do the production shots do her rolling gait justice as she absolutely nails her incarnation as an over-exaggerating live-wire, notorious in the mining town of Deadwood for being somewhat careless with the truth when it comes to recounting her exploits in bringing the Deadwood stagecoach into town.

Neat in its production values, this is a sepia-tinged, intimate production – even in the open expanses of the Playhouse – under Matthew Wright’s design, which uses the Deadwood Golden Garter saloon run by Henry “Millie” Miller (Anthony Dunn) as a framing device.

Here the miners sit around and dream of finding the image of saucy actress Miss Adelaide Adams (Christina Tedders) in their cigarette packet collecting cards. If they can’t have her, at least the curvaceous and scantily clad Frances Fryer has been booked to appear. Except that Frances turns out to be Francis – and not at all female. Even when Millie forces him on stage in drag.

atmospheric fizzle

The company look on from the balconies around the saloon – adding a touch of banjo or fiddle for atmosphere in Catherine Jayes’ fantastically clever orchestrations. But this can whip from Deadwood to the dressing room of Miss Adelaide Adams in Chicago in an instant, where Calamity is conned into bringing Adelaide’s maid Katie (Phoebe Street) back home, not Adelaide as promised.

Calamity goes too far. With the ensemble. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Calamity goes too far. Tom Lister and Jodie Prenger with the ensemble. Photo: Manuel Harlan

The tiny Golden Garter stage can open to reveal Calamity’s hovel of a hut, create the ballroom at Fort Scully or provide an atmospheric fizzle as Adelaide Adams appears in the imaginations of the miners – or in reality to deliver a sizzling hot It’s Harry I’m Planning to Marry.

The 15-strong cast oozes talent to the very edges. Musical Director Rob Delaney is a superb Frances Fryer, even getting in a touch of fourhanded piano playing with the stunning Sioned Saunders, as Millie’s niece, Susan.

Paul Kissaun has an ongoing role as Rattlesnake, the butt of much of Calamity’s humour, but keep an eye on his bearded, lumbering frame. He’s not just cracking the whip on the Deadwood Stage, he is there in the background, picking away on his guitar, giving depth and embellishment, or flirting with a lumbering double-bass.

Even Tom Lister’s background on TV – Emmerdale, The Bill, Doctors and Heartbeat – feels like a token gesture to celebrity. He is a fine Bill Hickok. A bit more laconic, maybe, than the “wild” epithet would predict, and the I Can Do Without You duet could do with better enunciation, but his Higher than a Hawk is a real stunner.

As a show, it must be said that it is stuck with a somewhat outmoded attitude to the role of women, as a fifties representation of late 19th century rural America. But the only slightly jarring note is Kate and Calamity’s duet, A Women’s Touch, thanks to the lightness of tone Nikolai Foster gives the whole.

A solid, uplifting show which puts the music and the performances centre stage, allowing the romance and comedy to shine right through. And yes, you will believe that the pines are so high that they kiss the sky, as the Black Hills of Dakota whispers as a theme tune, in and out of the whole production.

Running time 2 hrs 30 mins (including interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 September 2014
Daily 7.30pm; Weds/Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website:

Calimity Jane on tour:
Tue 23 – Sat 27 Sep Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Tue 30 Sep – Sat 4 Oct Cheltenham
Everyman Theatre
01242 572573 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Oct Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
Tue 14 – Sat 18 Oct Cardiff
New Theatre
029 2087 8889 Book online
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Oct Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
Tue 28 Oct – Sat 1 Nov Truro
Hall For Cornwall
01872 262466 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 8 Nov Woking
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 15 Nov Crawley
The Hawth
01293 553636 Book online
Tue 25 – Sat 29 Nov Theatre
Milton Keynes
0844 871 7652 Book online
Mon 1 – Sat 6 Dec Theatres
01684 892277 Book online
Tour continues in 2015:
Mon 19 – Sat 24 Jan 2015 Bath
Theatre Royal
01225 448844 Book online
Tue 27 – Sat 31 Jan 2015 Dartford
The Orchard Theatre
01322 220000 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Feb 2015 York
Grand Opera House
0844 8713024 Book online
Tue 17 – Sat 21 Feb 2015 Birmingham
New Alexandra Theatre
0844 8713011 Book online
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Feb 2015 Eastbourne
Congress Theatre
01323 412000 Book online
Tue 3 – Sat 7 Mar 2015 Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Mar 2015 Stoke On Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 8717627 Book online
Tue 17 – Sat 21 Mar 2015 Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 8717646 Book online
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Mar 2015 Manchester
Palace Theatre
0844 871 3019 Book online
Tue 31 Mar – Sat 4 Apr 2015 Southsea
Kings Theatre
023 9282 8282 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Apr 2015 Swansea
Grand Theatre
01792 475 715 Book online
Tue 14 – Sat 18 Apr 2015 High Wycombe
Wycombe Swan
01494 512000 Book online
Tue 28 Apr – Sat 2 May 2015 Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 8717627 Book online
Tue 5 – Sat 9 May 2015 Liverpool
Empire Theatre
0844 871 3017 Book online
Tue 12 – Sat 16 May 2015 Darlington
Civic Theatre
01325 486555 Book online
Tue 19 – Sat 23 May 2015 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
+353 1 6777999 Book online
Tue 2 – Sat 6 Jun 2015 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Jun 2015 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
Tue 16 – Sat 20 Jun 2015 Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 8717627 Book online
Tue 23 – Sat 27 Jun 2015 Leeds
The Grand Theatre & Opera House
0844 848 2700 Book online
Tue 30 Jun – Sat 4 Jul 2015 Leicester
0116 242 3595 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Jul 2015 Hull
Hull New Theatre
01482 300 300 Book online
Tue 21 – Sat 26 Jul 2015 Carlisle
Sands Centre
01228 633 766 Book online
Tue 28 Jul – Sat 1 Aug 2015 Tunbridge Wells
Assembly Hall Theatre
01892 530 613 Book online


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