Review: Calamity Jane at The Liverpool Empire

Posted on 6 May 2015
By Miranda Humphreys-Green
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Calamity Jane has wide, cross-generational appeal, and if you’re the kind of hopeless romantic who enjoys a whip-cracking wisecrack, a handful of heady harmony and a dollop of nostalgia then you’ll probably enjoy two and half hours of Nikolai Foster’s toe-tapping rendition of the much loved musical currently running at the Liverpool Empire.

You might take your Granny to this. You might take your teenage daughter. Many members of the audience took both.

Certainly the company is very talented. They can sing, dance, play an impressive variety of instruments and all while scratching their noses. Sickening, huh?Jodie Prenger (Lloyd Webber’s original Nancy) is a larger than life lead who bounces across the stage with the effervescent energy of a rubber ball.

The problem is that the characters are essentially little more than caricatures and it would take a Doris Day to lift them beyond this. Whilst Prenger gives good gusto, eventually her comedic-curmudgeonly growl begins to lose its hilarity, and her lovelorn anguish lackspathos.

Her transformation from being one-of-the-lads to lady-in-love is short on credibility and one can’t help but feel that she has fallen out with the wardrobe mistress, making her appearance in her ball gown more matronly than glitteringly gorgeous.

Ironically, it is the character of her erstwhile friend and love rival, Katie Browne, played with finesse by Phoebe Street, which shows the most dramatic development, transitioning as she does from maid to star of the saloon bar show and demonstrating a more complex emotional range than old Calam.

No matter though, for even if the first half lacks a little pace,the musical numbers come together after the interval, with a melodic cast reprise of the Black Hills of Dakota, and a joyous rendition of Secret Love by Prenger.Tom Lister (Emmerdale’s Carl King) as Wild Bill Hickok showcases a lovely baritone and the crew ensure that the whole shebang ends with a bang and not a whimper.

PR Rating: ***

Calamity Jane Starring Jodi Prenger is at The Liverpool Empire Until Saturday May 9th