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Calamity Jane (Tour-Bristol Hippodrome)

A production that brightens up a drab October evening with two leads that match their film star rivals.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Did you enjoy the great Wild West films as a youngster, or were you perhaps a follower of Doris Day and Howard Keel? If so then you will probably at some time in your life have seen the acclaimed film Calamity Jane. If you haven't seen it then you ought to fill the gap in your musicals education.

Tom Lister (Wild Bill Hickock) and Jodie Prenger (Calamity Jane) in Calamity Jane.
© Manuel Harlan

The Bristol Hippodrome welcomes the Watermill Theatre's production of this classic show. It starts with a bang and keeps you involved and excited from start to finish. The time passes in a flash and all too soon you are back to the dull October evening, but I would defy anyone not to be cheered up and brightened by this production. It's one of those seemingly rare shows which will be enjoyed by all ages from your granny to your grand children! I would be surprised if anyone could resist tapping their feet to the wonderful songs and dances – indeed I wanted to get up and join in!

The story tells of Deadwood City's two most famous peace officers, Calamity Jane – brilliantly played by Jody Prenger – who can outrun and outshoot any man in Deadwood, and Wild Bill Hickok – played by Tom Lister – who get involved in saving the neck of Henry Miller – played by Anthony Dunn - the local saloon operator. It seems that "Millie" has been promoting a beautiful actress named Frances Fryer. However Frances – well played by Rob Delaney, who is also the musical director for the production - turns out to be a boy. Millie's attempt to cover up is soon unmasked by the angry miners, and only Calamity can cool the crowd with her trusty pistols.

To keep the peace, Calamity sets out for Chicago to bring back the miner's real heart-throb, Adelaide Adams. In Chicago Calamity mistakes Adelaide's maid, Katie Brown – sensitively played by Phoebe Street - for the actress and hauls her back to Deadwood. Confusion, heartbreak and true love eventually win out.

I'm sure that everyone will recognize at least one of the songs from this show from the haunting "Black Hills of Dakota", the stirring "Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack away)" and the lovely "Secret Love". The music and singing is wonderful. It's difficult to pick out any one performancel, but I have to mention the powerful and feisty performance by Prenger, beautifully balanced by the stirring sound of Lister's voice. Move over Doris and Howard! Catherine Jayes as orchestrator and musical supervisor has achieved excellent results.

The set, lighting, and costumes are all well in keeping with the homely air of the production. This has all been carefully and successfully brought together by director Nikolai Foster. A tremendously fun production which I'm sure everyone will enjoy. How just let me go and find my six-shooter and cowboy hat …….

Calamity Jane plays at Bristol Hippodrome until the 25th October and then continues to tour the country until the 1st August 2015.