Calendar Girls The Musical is a totally British feel-good show which warms the heart, uplifts and entertains. It has something for everyone and is a beautiful portrayal of women supporting women.
At Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre last night Calendar Girls The Musical was moved to tears, laughing out loud and sobbing. The touring production has lost none of the magic created in the West End
Lisa Maxwell, who plays the fallen Judy Garland, could easily play this as a one woman show. Her likeness to Judy is incredible, in mannerisms, speaking voice and vocals.
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Written by Peter Quilter
Directed by Daniel Buckroyd
It’s a well-known story, but a heartbreaker each time it is told. It’s the one about the dark side of talent and celebrity and the permanent and omniscient destruction that it causes. Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and even Britney Spears all come to mind immediately, but there were many more that came before and with a tragic inevitability, more are likely to follow.
End of the Rainbow tells Judy Garland’s story and the tale of the child star turned superstar plays out around an astonishing performance from Lisa Maxwell.
Set in London, as Judy prepares for a six week concert run in the capital, the play provides a snapshot into the complex and irrevocably damaged individual that she had become. Maxwell flits between Garland’s incredible self-awareness and power alongside the hysteria as her dependence on drink and drugs became too much.
Garland battles with both her manager / new fiancé Mickey Deans (Sam Attwater) and her accompanist Anthony Chapman (Gary Wilmot). Chapman, who has known and loved her far longer than Mickey is to bear witness to her decline.
Although billed as a play, a selection of Garland’s greatest numbers are interjected into the telling of the story and Maxwell delivers these with a spine-tingling excellence. Wilmot is also on top form as Anthony, providing a critique of Mickey and his motives and to a degree, acting as the voice of reason. Attwater lacks a certain level of bite and struggles to maintain a consistent accent, but broadly plays well alongside the other two characters.
David Shields’ set design is a neat conceit, moving the audience from the hotel suite in which the three are staying, to the concert venue and back again. The staging is well complemented by David W Kidd’s lighting arrangements and some magnificent costuming.
End Of The Rainbow leaves the audience feeling heart-broken, yet also roused by the simply sensational Lisa Maxwell. Ending the show with a song does well to ensure that Judy Garland is remembered for her talent and fire and for achieving the immortality through fame that she craved.
Runs until 12th March then toursReviewed by: Bhakti Gajjar
Take your pick of Judy Garlands. On the London stage this week alone, you’ve got a choice of three in Ray Rackham’s brilliant new play with music Through the Mill. And in the new year, Peter Quilter’s Olivier and Tony-nominated End of the Rainbow returns, with Lisa Maxwell.