JOYCE MCMILLAN on CALAMITY JANE at the Edinburgh Playnouse, for The Scotsman, 27.9.14.
3 stars ***
NO SOONER has Annie Get Your Gun disappeared over the horizon, than the Playhouse finds itself playing host to another postwar musical about a woman who dons breeches and proves herself a world-class sharpshooter, before climbing back into her skirts – and something more like her appointed womanly role – when it comes to getting and keeping a man.
If the zeitgeist is trying to tell us something about the lonely fate of the liberated female, though, it does it in cheerful, unassuming style in the Watermill Theatre’s touring version of Calamity Jane, based on the iconic 1953 film starring Doris Day and Howard Keel. There are moments when Nikolai Foster’s mid-scale production – in the instrument-in-hand style that combines cast members and band, to create musical theatre on a slightly less lavish scale – seems a little pensive and downbeat for what’s essentially a light-as-air frothy romance set in a mythical version of the American west; and the lovely Jodie Prenger, as Calamity, often looks more anxious than swashbuckling.
The songs and music are fine though, with Nick Winston’s inspired line-dance choreography coming into its own in classic numbers like The Deadwood Stage and Just Blew In From The Windy City, and Tom Lister singing quite beautifully as Calamity’s admirer and sparring-partner, Wild Bill Hickok. And by the time we reach the final slightly implausible wedding scene, the audience are happy just to sing and clap along with one of the most light-hearted feelgood musicals in the whole postwar song-book.