Blackpool’s own stage star Jodie Prenger is in (whip) cracking form as Calamity Jane, running at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday.
Leading the superbly talented ensemble cast of actor-musicians, she even picks up a pair of spoons for a musical interlude as she goes from swaggering, gun-toting bragard to pretty in pink ball-goer.
Jodie’s blend of warm-hearted earthiness, comic timing and outstanding vocals make her a dream in this role
Calamity Jane is loosely based on the real-life ‘Calam’ Martha Jane Cannary, a frontier gal who could pretty much out-shoot any man and who’s tall tales made her something of a local celebrity.
Best known from the Oscar-winning film, starring Doris Day, Calamity Jane is packed with musical theatre classics; The Deadwood Stage, Windy City, The Black Hills Of Dakota and Secret Love.
And it retains the old-fashioned, classic feel, although updated with director Nikolai Foster’s actor-muso slant and a neat set which allows the action to move a sharply as Calam’s shooting, thanks in part to some fantastic lighting.
Opposite our Jodie, who was a natural in this role - belting out Secret Love to reach the Palace’s rafters like her life depended on it, was ex-Emmerdale bad guy Tom Lister who put in a susprisingly impressive turn as Wild Bill Hickok.
The pair are drawn in to help saloon owner Henry Miller bring the greatest actress of the time, Adelaid Adams, to Deadwood, after he mistakenly booked Francis Fryer but expected a rather more female Frances... And more mistaken identities ensue as Calamity finds who she thinks is Adelaid backstage at a Chicago theatre. In fact, it’s her wannabe star maid Katie Brown who grasps the opportunity with both hands and after a faltering start manages to win over the Deadwood audiences - and the hearts of Wild Bill and soldier Danny Gilmartin, who Calam’ has something of a soft spot for.
Encouraged to ditch her ‘female thinking’ by Wild Bill, who secretly has feelings for Calamity, she is guided in A Woman’s Touch, a great duet with Phoebe Street as Katie, to become a more gentile creature.
Jodie’s blend of warm-hearted earthiness, comic timing and outstanding vocals make her a dream in this role - you can’t help but will her on to happiness - and well worth the trip to Manchester.
n Calamity Jane, Palace Theatre, Manchester, until Saturday. Call (0161) 245 6600 for tickets.