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Jody Prenger stars in the musical Calamity Jane at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford and Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

Singer, actress, TV and radio presenter – Jodie Prenger will be familiar to you as one or another.

Will it be from TV show The Biggest Loser’s 2006 series, in which she appeared as a then unknown desperate to lose weight, and won the series after shrinking from 22 stone to a size 10?

Or as the winner of the 2008 series of vocal talent show I’d Do Anything, in which a panel including Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Denise Van Outen searched for a new face to play Nancy in West End musical Oliver!

Jodie Prenger stars in Calamity Jane
Jodie Prenger stars in Calamity Jane

Or could it be as the stand-in presenter for Paul O’Grady and Elaine Paige on their Radio 2 shows? These are all impressive entries on the CV of bubbly and bold Blackpool lass Jodie, now 35, who is appearing in Kent as Calamity Jane this week.

“The two things I’ve wanted in my life more than anything were not to be that 22-stone girl, and to be in musical theatre, and I’ve played them both out on TV which I find really weird,” she said.

Jodie insists that her first foray into TV in The Biggest Loser was no attempt to win fame by any means, but simply to lose weight.

“I was sat there with a packet of Hobnobs and I watched the American final and sobbed my heart out,” she said of her decision to apply for the show.

“I was just over 22 stone. I couldn’t get up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath; I wanted to be happy and I wanted to be healthy. I never sung once [on The Biggest Loser]. I didn’t do that because I wanted to be famous.”

When it came to really following her dream via I’d Do Anything, Jodie won the judges over from week one with her charismatic performance style and outstanding voice.

In fact, she’s a very popular lady on the showbiz circuit, with friends in high places.

“I know, bless ’em! Paul O’Grady is lovely. Andrew – I should call him Sir Andrew – is lovely. He came along and saw Calamity Jane with his wife, Madeleine. They don’t have to take that time out, but they did because they are lovely, genuine people,” says Jodie.

Doris Day in Calamity Jane
Doris Day in Calamity Jane

That first weight-loss exposure has certainly paid dividends for Jodie’s stage career, which has also included Spamalot and One Man, Two Guvnors.

“When I think of Calamity Jane now, it’s amazing. [At 22 stone] I could never have jumped on the piano or done a full hoedown,” she says.

The character is based on real-life American frontiers-woman Martha Jane Cannary, a 19th century scout known for her claim of being an acquaintance of gambler and lawman Wild Bill Hickok and for fighting Indians. Jodie says: “There were two people to look at – the iconic, gorgeous Doris Day [from the 1953 movie], and then the real character.

“I researched Martha and, apart from being an alcoholic and a smoker, I’ve got all the traits! She’s feisty, she was the original girl power symbol – she really stood up for herself and was this phenomenon. She fought, smoked, rode with the best of them, and it’s great to play such a character.

Jodie Prenger stars in Calamity Jane
Jodie Prenger stars in Calamity Jane

Jodie adds: “The film was created for Doris Day and these iconic songs like The Windy City, The Deadwood Stage and Secret Love – I get to go out and sing, and I love it: even if George Clooney was lying next to me in a loin cloth with a bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, I’d still go to work!”

Of the departure that tomboy Calamity represents from her usual feminine castings, Jodie says: “Just stick me in some buck skins, and I’m virtually Bruce Willis! I get my swag on.”

Calamity Jane is at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre from Tuesday, January 27 to Saturday, January 31. Tickets cost from £20. Visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.

The show visits the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells from Tuesday, July 28, until Saturday, August 1. Tickets cost from £18.50. Visit www.assemblyhall theatre.co.uk or call 01892 530613.

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