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Review: Jodie Prenger in Calamity Jane at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford

The Deadwood stage rolled into Dartford last night (Tues, Jan 27) to provide rip-roaring entertainment with Calamity Jane at the Orchard for a five-day run.

Calamity Jane (Jodie Prenger) and Wild Bill Hickok (Tom Lister)
Calamity Jane (Jodie Prenger) and Wild Bill Hickok (Tom Lister)

A foot-tapping audience, interestingly made up in large numbers of 30- and 40-somethings, clearly warmed to the musical's ever-green numbers like the Black Hills of Dakota and the Deadwood Stage - songs which have lasted the passage of time from generation to generation.

Anchoring is, of course, Calamity Jane played with gusto by Jodie Prenger. She delivered a rollicking performance with a deep-southern drawl true to the uplifting spirit of the tale. She and the talented, energetic cast, sing and dance their way to a highly memorable night.

Adapted from the celebrated stageplay and film, the cast provide the perfect antidote for anyone needing to sweep away the blues on these cold, damp, winter nights.

'Calam,' as they call her on stage, dresses like a man, totes a gun and drives the Deadwood City stagecoach.

Well-meaning but disaster prone, she tries to help the local saloon proprietor by promising to fetch a music-hall star from Chicago to perform there.

Calamity Jane (Jodie Prenger) and Wild Bill Hickok (Tom Lister)
Calamity Jane (Jodie Prenger) and Wild Bill Hickok (Tom Lister)

Although Calamity can outrun and outshoot any man in Deadwood, everyone in town starts to favour the new girl causing 'Calam' to struggle to keep her jealousy and pride in check - ably assisted by gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok played by Tom Lister, late of Emmerdale, The Bill, Doctors and Heartbeat.

Lister puts in a superb performance as a cool, laidback character who lovingly despairs of Calamity.

The production has many tender moments and a good pace, the result of acclaimed director Nikolai Foster and choreographer Nick Winston.

by Nick Lillitos

Calamity Jane runs at The Orchard until Saturday January 31 and then goes on a national regional tour. 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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