Libby Bateman

Review: Calamity Jane @ Sunderland Empire

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Calamity Jane

After a 20-minute delay due to technical difficulties backstage, the Wild West tale of Calamity Jane kicked off with a thigh-slapping knees-up and an all-singing and dancing cast.

It didn’t take long for the cast to get back into the swing of things after the initial delay, although it did affect their performance at first.

Without giving too much away, Calamity is in love with Lt Danny but also has a love hate relationship with Wild Bill. She goes all the way to Chicargi to try to fetch the much-loved Adelaide Adams. There was some confusion, with both Calamity’s love life and Adelaide Adams, which leaves calamity with not quite the outcome she expected.

Jodie Prenger fit the part of Calam perfectly with gusto and dominant stage presence. She owned the stage as soon as she entered and her flawless voice and rough and ready posture had the audience hooting in their seats. Her performance of Secret Love at the end reminded me of why Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber chose her as his Nancy back in 2008.

Emmerdale hunk Tom Lister gave an impeccable performance of Wild Bill Hickok and left me in shock when he opened his mouth with such an unexpected striking singing voice. His transition from TV to stage was faultless.

The multi-talented cast can dance, sing and play instruments sometimes all at the same time. Musical director Rob Delaney multi-tasked as he conducted the orchestra, from the stage, as well as taking on the role of Francis Fryer giving a great performance.

Mathew Wright’s set was very cleverly put together with the use of subtle changes as the piano turned into a bar and then became the front of a stagecoach. Cast members also became horses for the stagecoach and used barrels to create the galloping noise. This added to the slickness of the performance.

At the end of the show Tom came out of character to announce to the audience about a charity event that some of the cast are getting involved in. They are ditching their horses and getting on a bike for a 24-hour saddle sore bike ride from Wimbledon to Manchester, to raise money for Hope for Justice.

The show ended with a good old-fashioned hoedown to keep the audience clapping and singing along as they did throughout most of the show to the much-expected Sammy Fain classics including Black Hills of Dakota and Windy City.

It’s safe to say the Sunderland crowd impressed Jodie Prenger. She even wanted to ring her bank and see if she could pay for everyone to come back the next day “because they were that good. It was just brilliant.”

Calamity Jane is on at the Sunderland Empire until March 7.#####