REVIEW: Calamity Jane - The Hawth Theatre, Crawley

Jodie Prenger
Jodie Prenger
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Calamity Jane has always been one of my favourite musicals with a great fondness for Doris Day and Howard Keel so I was very excited to learn it was coming to Crawley.

All thoughts of the film were quickly pushed aside as Jamie Noar (Hank) wandered on stage, audience chatter died immediately and he began slowly picking out the chords of the Black Hills of Dakota. The curtain lifted revealing the Golden Garter theatre.

The set was clever with musical instruments strategically placed along the beams and on the balcony. The cast demonstrated an array of talents; as you would expect they could sing, dance and act but they also had the ability to turn their hand to playing an array of musical instruments and formed the orchestra for the night.

The music certainly was an integral part of the whole production and I loved this approach from director Nikolai Foster and Catherine Jayes, the orchestrator and musical supervisor.

The life of Calamity Jane is one I have found fascinating, there are several versions of her depicted in film and TV.

She worked on the railroad was a professional gambler, gold prospector and stagecoach driver but also turned her hand to nursing duties.

She is bold and brash - a straight talking woman in man’s world.

Jodie Prenger was the perfect fit, her Dakota drawl was flawless and was commanding from the moment she appeared on stage. With a twinkle in her eye and cheeky grin Jodie was Calamity.

The energy she showed as the firecracker Calam was unyielding as she belted out the wonderful toe-tapping tunes like Windy City and Secret Love. I really enjoyed the duet I Can Do Without You performed with Tom Lister as the infamous Wild Bill Hickok, the actor who played Carl King in Emmerdale, was a delightful surprise as the gambling gunslinger.

He had that saloon swagger and played guitar during a wonderful rendition of Higher than a Hawk that made me forget Howard Keel!

Rob Delaney who played Francis Fryer was excellent as the actor recruited from New York under the impression he was Frances the actress, his own turn in Everyone complains about the weather was fun as was his piano duet with Sioned Saunders as Susan.

When Calamity promises to return to Deadwood with actress Adelaid Adams she is duped by Adelaid’s maid Katie Brown, played by the energetic Phoebe Street. Katie Brown then becomes the love interest of the subject of Calamity’s affections the Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin!

Alex Hammond as the Lieutenant delivers a lovely cameo with great use of his voice to draw on the comedy of some of his lines.

The second act seemed to whip along more quickly than the first but this may be because the first act contained some less familiar songs which were added to the musical. Careless with the Truth was a hugely entertaining number involving the whole cast whilst the Black Hills of Dakota was everything I expected. A fantastic production, a cracking hoedown. I was just sorry I had left my cowboy boots at home.