Jodie Prenger made her name when she won the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s West End production of Oliver! through the BBC talent contest I’d Do Anything.
Everything else has simply flowed from there, says Jodie, whose latest adventure is a massive tour of Calamity Jane, which saw her spend the summer in Newbury and will keep her on the road until next August.
“You do the whole Oliver! thing then and then it’s done, and you think ‘that’s that!’, but it has been fantastic. I have just been totally blessed. It’s fantastic to be doing Calamity Jane. I have always loved Doris Day (who starred in the 1953 film). Calamity is so iconic.
“But really everything sprang from Oliver!,” she admits. In fact, she was starting to despair of it ever happening. She felt she was going for her last audition, but then suddenly she was everyone’s Nancy.
But there’s clearly a world of difference between being given your chance and actually taking it. Jodie has most certainly done the latter.
“My nan always said ‘You should just get stuck in!’ and that’s my view that runs through it. People think it is all glamour, but there is a lot of hard work in this business, and it is the hard work that pays off in the end. But really, it is just all so much fun as well!
“We were talking last night and saying that we just feel that we need to do it. I have got to get up there. I have got to sing these songs. And I have always loved Calamity. And the audience too. I have never known a show like it. They are just so involved in it. I grew up listening to the music. I knew all the songs, and I think it is the same with the audience. It has just resonated through the years. It goes across the generations. We have got people from six to 106 years old in the audience, I should think!
“And I have always loved Doris Day. And I love her even more after finding out that she has got an animal sanctuary which is also my goal. I love Vera Lynn. I love Bette Midler. I love all that older stuff. I love Ella Fitzgerald. I love those proper singers.
“Lots of girls just stand there in a G-string and go ‘La-la-la!’”
“No, the world’s not ready for that! Give me my buckskin!”
With Calamity, a big part of the pleasure is that we are talking about a real-life person – and a person after Jodie’s own heart.
“I remember looking in Wikipedia, and the whole description of her was that she was feisty and caring, and I was thinking ‘Is it my Wikipedia entry I am reading!’ – well, apart from the bit about her smoking and drinking! But I am a really feisty person, always have been and always will be, and that’s what she was all about. She was a woman who fought like a man and smoked like a man, and she was everything that everyone marvelled at. But she also had a real heart.”
As for the show: “I just love the way the music swirls around you. It’s a really nice piece, and the whole creative team are fantastic, the way that everybody collaborates!”
Jodie spent 16 months in Oliver! She was in One Man, Two Guvnors for just over a year and two years on and off in Spamalot. She likes a long stint.
“It’s great. You can feel the characters changing and developing. It’s like they are human!”
The show plays Brighton Theatre Royal from Tuesday, April 28-Saturday, May 2.