Review: Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane. Picture: contributed
Calamity Jane. Picture: contributed
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Once upon a time in the West... there was a rootin-tootin cowgirl who took no mess. She could bust your britches, lasso your heart, and shoot an apple off an Injun’s head without leaving a mark.

* * * * *

Playhouse, Greenside Place

OK, so Calamity Jane was always known to be a bit “careless with the truth”. Nevertheless, pardners, the Wild West has truly arrived in the east end of Edinburgh this week. Starring Jodie Prenger (winner of BBC TV’s I’d Do Anything) as our sharp-shooting heroine, the anticipation for this thigh-slapping adventure was so high, the show started late due to the “herd” stampeding through the foyer.

So for those who don’t remember the Doris Day Hollywood version, here’s the tale...

Set in Dakota, the ever boastful “Calam” sets out for “Chicagee” in a bid to find an acting star – in this case, burlesque floozy Adelaid Adams – for the Deadwood theatre. Unfortunately, she acquires Adams’s maid Katie instead by mistake, thus unleashing a whole world of trouble once the cat is inevitably let out of the bag. And it gets worse: Calamity and Katie end up fighting for the affections of the same man.

Featuring Oscar-nominated songs, the singing, dancing, musician-actors whip-crack-away through The Black Hills Of Dakota and Just Blew In From The Windy City with no end of merry abandon. The barn-like stage set is impressive, too; so much so, if it weren’t for the smell of sawdust, you’d swear you’d taken a trip back to the late 1800s.

Prenger is finely cast as the buckskinned, short-tempered firecracker who eventually unearths her feminine side. Emmerdale’s Tom Lister (Wild Bill Hickock) oozes charm and charisma, whereas Phoebe Street adds plenty of sass as opportunist Katie.

The only real criticism is that Watermill Theatre’s production builds to a crescendo too early. That said, every one of the 135 minutes is highly watchable, and if you’re not singing Whip Crack Away as you head for the exits, then my name’s John Wayne.

• Run ends Saturday