Writer: Charles K. Freeman
Music: Sammy Fain
Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster
Director: Nikolai Foster
Choreographer: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Sue Collier
Tonight, the town of Deadwood visits Bradford, and with it comesthe characterful, jolly rootin’ tootin’ musical Calamity Jane starringthe vibrant Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane and Tom Lister as her sparring partner and eventual lover, Wild Bill Hickok.
A sackcloth stage curtain represents the harsh lifestyle of the Deadwood community. A single banjo hanging from the curtain is removed by a solitary cavalryman who slowly starts to play a gentle tune. The audience immediately catch on as he smiles at us and winks, so inviting us to sing with him ‘The Black Hills of Dakota’. This charmingly captivating introduction to the evening’s performance is a technique which makes the audience immediately invest in it.
The curtain opens to the one and only set throughout, but boy is it a good one. We are inside a barroom with a stage upon which the Burlesque artists perform to the men of Deadwood. Any form of entertainment is considered a big event here, especially when it is that offered by Adelaide Adams the fantasy girl of the men’s cigarette cards. The Deadwood stage arrives and on it is Calamity Jane, who declares that she will bring Adelaide Adams to Deadwood, but instead she mistakenly brings them Adelaide’s maid Katie Brown. Will the men of Deadwood ever forgive her? Of course they will. Katie is gorgeous and there is soon a competition between the men who vie for her affection.
Prenger does a sterling job as Calamity. Her Dakota accent is funny to listen to although it seems rather challenging to sing in such an accent and thus Prenger sounds occasionally breathless. However that is notto suggest that Prenger’s performance was at all lacking, as her energy and sheer comic genius combined with her immensely fine singing voice is a joy to behold. The scene in which she enters the stage wearing a filthy wet dress and declaring “I fell in that darn creek” is a hoot.
Havingonly ever seen Tom Lister previously in Emmerdale, it was a pleasure to experience his warmly funny performance. His voice is wonderfully gentle and the romantic solo ‘Higher than a Hawk’ in which he sings and plays the guitar was a revelation.
The rôle of the Burlesque dancer Katie Brown is played by Phoebe Street, who is a very pretty dancer. Her voice together with that of Alex Hammond who plays romantic interest Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin combines well in their tenderly harmonised duet.
The set which is well lit, gives an accurate representation of those primitive times and is used in a creative and imaginative manner to convey different scenes, for example the Deadwood stagecoach and the inside of Calamity’s shack.
The small cast of 15 are very skilfully adaptable. Everyone plays a variety of instruments including percussion, strings, horns and double bass and thus give the impression of a very big, strong cast. The costumes also give a splendid representation of the times.
There are a number of dodgy moments where long silences suggest delayed or forgotten lines and an unfortunate drone from the sound desk did spoil one particular romantic moment somewhat. However this is a performance which the audience clearly enjoy and which deserves their solid applause.
Runs until: 7th February 2015