Touring – reviewed at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
In 1998, a group of ladies in Yorkshire rallied together to help one of their members when her beloved husband died. They decided to raise money in his memory for the Lukaemia Research fund, by posing naked for a calendar and selling copies. Calendar Girls tells their story of unity as it exudes warmth and joy. Tim Firth and Gary Barlow spent five years collaborating to create this musical and it has been seen across the UK in a variety of forms.
Thanks to their brilliantly witty and heartfelt lyrics and music, the show retains its heart wherever it goes and will surely continues to bring a smile to faces around the world. What’s wonderful about this musical is how it focuses on a number of human emotions and relationships and does so with sensitivity, pathos and simplicity.
We are really forced to think about what it means to pushed outside our comfort zones and it’s marvellous to see a group of older women completely letting go and having the best time on stage. I can only hope to be as confident as these ladies when I grow up. In terms of both acting and singing, it took a little while for the performances to really bloom (excuse the pun) as they seemed somewhat reserved and quiet in the opening number.
However, once they get into the swing of things, the whole cast gives brilliantly strong, well-rounded and clever performances. Sarah Jane Buckley brings the silent struggle of grief to light with immense sensitivity and provides some vocal stand out moments, especially during act two.
Rebecca Storm as Chris is the embodiment of fizz as she floats around the stage with an energy which can’t help but lift spirits. All the ladies of the cast have a fantastic chemistry but these two in particular really do seem as though they’ve grown up together and seen the highs and lows of life. Judy Holt is great as the traditional leader of the WI, Marie; Julia Hills is hilarious as the tragically overly helpful Ruth; whilst, Sue Devaney delivers some hilarious one liners and vocal gems as Cora.
Ruth Madoc really embodies the role of an ex-teacher as she gets the other girls in line with her stern Welsh remarks and Lisa Maxwell is excellent as the brash ex-air hostess trying to fit in with her new found community. The set design by Robert Jones is basic but completely works for the production. Minimal scene changes are kept entertaining through small tweaks including a sunset in the background and a seasonally decorated piano. The audience are really transported to the Yorkshire dales, village green, hospital and hall and feel as though we’ve stepped from London to the countryside. This is a totally British feel-good show which warms the heart, uplifts and entertains. Calendar Girls has something for everyone and is a beautiful portrayal of women supporting women. Calendar Girls runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 5th October before continuing it’s tour photo credit: