Watermills Theatre Production ‘Calamity Jane’ brought the wild west to Bristol’s Hippodrome at the opening last night. Jodie Prenger who starred as “Calam” lassoed the hearts of the audience with her hilarious comic timing and lovable charm.

‘Calamity Jane’ tells the story of “Calam” who dresses like a man, drives the Deadwood City stagecoach and always has a gun to hand. Disaster tends to follow her as tries to help out Mr. Miller in saving his saloon, by promising a huge star from the “windy city”, Chicago. A heart warming comedy, where the whole Cast had the audience laughing one moment and choking up at the next.

After watching Jodie win ‘I’d Do Anything’ to gain the role of Nancy in ‘Oliver!’, it is undeniable that she has a tremendous stage presence and voice to match; but I was unsure how she’d pull off the comical tom boy that Doris Day so perfectly did. Jodie put her own stamp on the ballsy Calamity, it was not how I thought I’d want to see it played, but she really captured the essence of Calamity’s vulnerability and hilarious storytelling.

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The cast all onstage // Credit: Ambassador Theatre Group

Heart throb Wild Bill Hickok was done absolute justice by Tom Lister, best known as Emmerdale’s Carl King. He mesmerised the audience with his version of “My Heart Is Higher Than a Hawk (Deeper Than a Well)”, whilst sitting centre stage playing the guitar. It was the most entertaining experience to watch Bill and Calam’s partnership blossom, from the witty quick paced “I Can Do Without You” to their wonderfully romantic kiss scene which the whole audience was waiting for. Following this Jodie’s “Secret Love” was sung “from the highest hill” which cemented her ownership of the character.

Phoebe Street as Katie Brown, was a stunning performance of charm and elegance. She added a real “woman’s touch” to the show with her sexiness and beautiful soprano voice. Her future would definitely be an interesting one to watch!

To make a big impact with a smaller role isn’t always so easy, but Rob Delaney’s cross-dressing, all singing, all dancing, Francis Fryer did. His appearance really carried off the beginning of the show with hilarious cheer.

The most fantastic detail to witness was the chorus playing orchestra. Being able to see an accordion and a banjo (just to name a few) played on stage made the experience of the Wild West even more exciting. All the more did the music feel authentic and really grasp the audience with the talent and diversity of the actors.

How else could Calamity Jane “whip crack” her presence on the stage without wearing her signature suede tassel jacket and red neckerchief? Credit to Matthew Right, who’s costume and set design encapsulated the characters personalities and the community hub that is the saloon. The set celvery allowed the saloon to stay put as the background, whilst wheels, reins and umbrellas mimicked the stagecoach made its rickety journey through the “Black hills”.

By Rosie Porter