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Calamity Jane (Tour-Plymouth)

Calamity Jane is a creaky story that peaks to soon but includes some cracking performances.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Tom Lister and Jodie Prenger in Calamity Jane.
© Manuel Harlan

Multi-talented actors hoof, sing and play myriad musical instruments as the mundane, predictable Wild West tale romps and drags along by turns. Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Award-winner Jodie Prenger is well-cast as Calam. With her strident voice, engaging presence and ownership of the stage, Prenger plays the title role with great gusto and nicely revealed vulnerability.

It's an interesting part, based on the real life 19th century buckskin-clad sharpshooter whose catalogue of stories ‘may or may not be the absolute truth' but who defied the norm for women of her time. But, typically for the 50s (when the Doris Day/Howard Keel film on which the musical is based was released), her exploits are pretty much unappreciated amongst the gold panning, barnstorming Deadwood population while her conversion to dress-wearing feminism is seen as a commonsense epiphany. Hey ho.

Emmerdale hunk Tom Lister languidly plays her foil (and eventual husband) Wild Bill Hickok with a tremendous wry humour and his musicality is a revelation.

Also populating the somewhat sepia hick town are sawbones and soldiers, hoofers galore, handsome love interest lieutenant Danny Gilmartin (Alex Hammond), hirsute slowcoach Rattlesnake (Flying Picket Alex Kissuan) and save-the-day musical niece Susan (Sioned Saunders - Casualty's Shelley) while visiting entertainers Francis Fryer (versatile musical director Rob Delaney) and Katie Brown (Phoebe Street) throw their metaphorical stetsons into the ring providing the twists and turns as neither are quite what Deadwood was expecting.

All the expected Oscar-winning Sammy Fain classics are there - 'Deadwood Stage', 'Secret Love', 'Black Hills of Dakota' and 'Windy City' – complete with live accompaniment and thigh-slapping hoedown but at times the sound production is muffled or lost.

Matthew Wright's set is faded music hall with multifunctional props – such as the honky tonk piano delightfully becoming the rollicking stagecoach – and disguised instruments constantly at hand.

A creaky story which peaks too soon but with some cracking performances