Review by Sandra Carter

The Wild West comes to The Swan this week to take you ‘back to the black hills, the black hills of Dakota’. And here in Deadwood City in 1876 you’ll find entertaining company in the epitome of all cowboy saloon bars.

Focus of all attention, reducing even the hardy locals to cowering submission, is Calamity Jane, the loud-mouthed, sharp-shooting gal who talks and acts like a guy and scares the daylights out of cowboys, gamblers and Indians alike. This Jane is a far cry from Doris Day who made the part her own back in the 1953 film. Jodie Prenger, whose success in BBC TV's I'd Do Anything led to a string of TV and theatre work, plays a feisty buckskin-clad Jane.

The show provides plenty more ‘Oh look it’s him’ moments for TV soap fans, with the handsome Wild Bill Hickok played by Tom Lister (Emmerdale’s Carl King etc), and the burly bearded Rattlesnake played by Paul Kissaun (The Flying Pickets musician as well as appearances on The Bill and Coronation Street).

I must confess I yearned for sub-titles in the first few minutes, with strong American accents and super-fast talking leaving me missing some jokes. But I soon got my ear in.

Musicals aren’t what they were – they can now be far more entertaining, thanks to the trend for the cast to not only sing, dance and act, but provide the music too. So throughout the show, double bass and guitar, clarinet and trombone, cymbals and violins and more appear from nowhere and produce a fabulous sound as part of the action. This cast is certainly talented. The stage direction is imaginative, too, with the bar piano turning into a pretend stagecoach as needed.

As the story progresses Jane reveals her ‘secret love’ (remember that wonderful song?), makes a mess of gender and identity confusions, threatens her pretty dancer friend (a sweet Phoebe Street) who falls for the handsome lieutenant (well played by Alex Hammond). Will she ever doff a feminine dress and find a love of her own? I’m sure you know the answer.

The climax of the show is Jodie Prenger’s superb rendition of Once I Had a Secret Love. But it’s not quite the end. Keep clapping after the curtain call, and it will rise again for a wonderfully joyful hoe-down with all the cast music-making and dancing as only cowboys and girls know how.

Calamity Jane continues at the Wycombe Swan until Saturday April 18. Tickets range from £25 to £35, available online at or by calling the ticket office on 01494 512 000.