Calamity Jane is not a musical which you get the opportunity to see very often, so when my friend announced she was going to be in the new touring show, I jumped at the chance to watch and support. Travelling around the country theatre by theatre, it was only a matter of time before the cast arrived in London and the capital was certainly pleased to have them, packing the New Wimbledon Theatre to the brim.
The narrative is based loosely on the life story of Martha Jane Cannary, the American frontierswoman known for fighting Indians! It has famously been adapted for film, and stage. Recently there has been an economic trend for actor-musician shows where the orchestra are incorporated in onstage performance, and the instruments are played by the talented multi-tasking cast. Nikolai Foster uses this technique to make the show snappier and more powerful, and luckily the cast seems able to flit between acting, playing, singing and dancing with staggering ease. This style of production definitely suits this vintage show. To create the scene authentically, Matthew Wright has designed a set that is simple and rugged evoking the Western character.
Jodie Prenger, known for winning the part of Nancy in Lloyd Webber’s televised search, is a powerhouse. She stomps about the stage, with the perfect twang and a very fluid, natural comic acting style. She is complemented by the cast of versatile performers around her. I was delighted to see my good friend Giovanna Ryan stepping up to the role of Susan, and storming the stage as if she’d been playing the part her entire life. Amazing too to see her full set of musical skills illustrated in the show – she tinkles virtuosically on the piano, plucks away at her bass and beautifully bows the cello. I felt very proud. I also really enjoyed Phoebe Street’s rendition of Katie Brown, the pretty girl who offers some contrast to the rest of the rowdy cast.
It is a joy to see this Sammy Fain musical revival, if you can visit any of the tour venues, I highly recommend a trip to this brilliantly modernised version of an old-fashioned classic.
More information and book tickets to see Calamity Jane here.