It's been years since I saw an amateur production of Calamity Jane, so I was keen to see what the professionals had made of it at Manchester Palace Theatre last night.

Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane

Jodie Prenger as Calamity Jane

Based on the 1953 musical film starring Doris Day and Howard Keel, it tells the story of whip-cracking Calamity Jane who can handle a gun as well as any man in Deadwood, so they treat her like one of them. She has a soft spot for cavalry office Danny, which is not reciprocated and in a bid to impress him, she travels to Chicago to bring back singer and dancer Adelaide Adams to perform in their local theatre.

Calamity's plan is scuppered when Danny falls for Adelaide while Wild Bill Hickok tries to be the voice of reason when she takes things too far.

I cannot stress enough how much this role seemed to have been created with Jodie Prenger in mind- she stole the show for me because she was what I expected of the character of Calamity and more. We see so many sides to her throughout the show- she was funny, vulnerable and ballsy in equal measure and the audience lapped it up from the beginning.

Tom Lister was rather dashing as Calamity's antagonist and love interest Will Bill Hickok, who most will recognise as Carl King from Emmerdale.

Every one of the actors could not only sing and dance, but provided a lot of the musical accompaniments too, bringing the orchestra onto the stage, reinforcing just how talented and versatile the cast were. I was in awe watching them as they alternated between one medium to another.

The backdrop of the archetypical western theatre and bar remained constant, however our imaginations were stretched as a few chairs and loose wheels later and the cast were riding on a train or a horse drawn carriage. The production was certainly bursting with creativity using very few props and copious amounts of enthusiasm from those on stage.

Every track was catchy and had the audience singing along with the cast to the more famous tunes like 'The Black Hills of Dakota' and 'Just Blew in Form the Windy City' from the creative minds of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.

The story is still going strong over 60 years later and I'm sure will continue to pull the audiences in for years to come. A good old fashioned love story, with guns, thigh slapping and the feel good factor that everyone wants to walk away with when they exit the theatre door.


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