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A whip-cracking, wonderful night
Published 04/08/14

BRILLIANT is not a word this reviewer uses very often - about once every two to three years. So when I say that Calamity Jane at the Watermill is brilliant you can take it as hard currency.

This show has stellar magnitude in every department and somehow manages to make the tiny Watermill stage fulfil the role of a large West End theatre. Great acting, singing, playing and dancing at pace and with commitment make your heart beat faster.

But the real triumph of Calamity Jane is making it look like a big time musical, with a combination of talents which manage to integrate a flute-playing dancer, various singing violinists, reed and brass players, pianists, guitarists, mandolinists and ukuleleists.

There were more instruments, but the point is that they were organised and choreographed so well and intricately that it seemed entirely natural that a grizzled old stagecoach driver should be a great double-bass player.

The stars, Jodie Prenger as Calamity and Tom Lister as Wild Bill Hickok, shine brightly, but no brighter than a ridiculously talented supporting cast which make this two-and-a-half hours fly past in what seems half the time.

Ms Prenger has all the rough and ready attitude of the real Calamity and a great voice. She was one of the winners of that series of find-a-star type shows on the BBC from a few years ago and won through to play Nancy in Oliver in the West End. It’s easy to see why she made it from this.

This kind of ensemble musical theatre was pioneered at the Watermill in the nineties by John Doyle and it was always good, but now it’s moved to several layers beyond good.

It’s got Evening Standard Theatre Award written right through it and it will tour, so maybe a few more gongs from abroad.

Calamity Jane is at the Watermill until September 6.

Calamity Jane

The Watermill, Newbury

Until September 6

PUBLISHED 04/08/14

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