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Calamity? What calamity?

Published by: Mark Ridyard on 17th Jun 2015 | View all blogs by Mark Ridyard

Calamity Jane & Wild Bill Hickok - Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
PHOTO: MANUEL HARLAN

“Take me back to the black hills
The black hills of Dakota…”

It’s with these words that Calamity Jane opened last night at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow.

Not words coming from the stage, you understand – words being sung by a significant proportion of the sizeable Kings audience! On stage, a man playing a banjo; but, in the auditorium, members of the public singing heartily as he plucked the strings.

And it was this that set the tone for an enjoyable night’s entertainment, set at the “Golden Garter” in Deadwood, and featuring Jody Prenger (Winner of I’d Do Anything and West-End regular) and Tom Lister (Carl King in Emmerdale) as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok respectively.

Before the curtain was raised, it seems like something was missing – namely, an orchestra or band sitting patiently waiting to strike-up the overture – and a few people sitting around me in the audience were quick to voice their concerns. However, Director Nikolai Foster and Musical Supervisor Catherine Jayes had played a blinder. There was no need for an orchestra in “the pit”, as all the instruments would be played by the cast on-stage throughout the entire show!

This approach really showcased the wealth of performing talent on-show, with every performer playing an instrument (violin, double-bass, trumpet etc) and even Jody Prenger herself treating us to a session on the spoons.

The set remains static throughout, with the performers helping to form certain scenes (such as the rides on the stagecoach) and subtle lighting changes transforming the Golden Garter into a classy Chicago theatre as Calamity tries to lure the popular actress Adelaid Adams back to Deadwood.

Jody Prenger’s Calamity is a both a nod to the performance of Doris Day in the 1953 film version, but also encompasses some subtle (and not-so-subtle) characterisation which brings something fresh and endearing to the role. Her singing voice, as you would expect, is bang-on-the-money but what’s noticeable its clarity, meaning that those who are new to the show can easily follow every word that she is singing and saying. Her regular “asides” to other characters in the show made for some of the biggest laughs and cheers of the evening.

Tom Lister gives a controlled yet humorous performance as Wild Bill which provides excellent chemistry in his exchanges with Calamity and allows us to see the many sides of his character.

The supporting cast, as a whole, are very strong, but particular mention should go to Sophia Ragavelas for her shy-yet-blossoming Katie Brown and Bobby Delaney for his excellent turn as Francis Fryer.

Anyone who comes to the show wanting to simply see the film version performed on stage will not get their wish – but what they will get is a lively, energetic and, at times, subtle production. And, if the audiences for the rest of this week are anything like the opening night’s, they’ll also get the chance for a big sing-song, too!

Calamity Jane is on at the Kings Theatre, Glasgow, until Saturday 20th June 2015.

Click here to buy tickets for Calamity Jane at The Kings Theatre, Glasgow

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