Calendar Girls: The Musical
“To unexplored horizons in the mind and new coastlines in the heart…”
The death of a much loved husband prompts a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute to do an extraordinary thing. Blasting away all preconceptions of what it is to be in a women’s institute, they decide to do an artistic nude calendar to raise money for charity. Upturning preconceptions is a dangerous business and none of them expect the emotional and personal ramifications, but gradually the making of the fabulous and funny calendar brings each woman unexpectedly into flower.
The true story of the Calendar Girls launched a global phenomenon, a million copycat calendars, a record breaking movie, stage play and now a musical written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow which coined the term “craughing” – the act of crying and laughing at the same time.
With unforgettable songs, every performance continues to add to the millions already raised for charity and also prove that there is no such thing as an ordinary woman.
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Rick Bowen – StageStruck – 5 Star Review
If you thought the WI was all jam and Jerusalem, Calendar Girls – The Musical is sure to shatter that particular misconception.
The production, currently playing at Altrincham Garrick, also provides a much needed antidote to these gloomy times. Even Victor Meldrew’s grumpier twin brother would enjoy this. If he had one of course.
When one of their group loses a husband to cancer, her best friend and fellow WI member comes up with an idea to raise funds for research into this appalling illness and it’s a fundraising idea that can be summed up in one word – unique.
She persuades the women, many of whom are embarrassed by the bodies, to pose for a nude calendar.
But it’s all done in the best possible taste, to pinch a catchphrase from the late, great comedy genius Kenny Everett.
There’s nothing seedy about this show at all. It’s an uplifting tale of love, friendship and the most unlikely camaraderie. All of human life can be found at the WI.
Created by Take That’s Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, it’s also about women of a certain age re-discovering their sex appeal. You don’t have to be a stick insect to be sexy.
Musically, the score is a mixed bag, with the best numbers saved for the second half. But the acting here is exemplary and you the audience member, will find warming to the characters requires very little effort.
You’ll want to live in the picture postcard Yorkshire Dales among warm and friendly people like this and experience at first hand the extra dry wit for which the inhabitants of this fabulous county are famous.
By far the best performances come from Sarah Kirk as Annie, grieving the death of her husband John and Dawn Flint as her friend of 40 years, Chris. You’ll laugh and cry with them and feel like you’re watching two real pals, so engaging they are together.
But I also like Charlie Tomlinson as Chris’s husband Rod and it’s impossible not to warm to Adam Byrne’s Danny, drawn to the rebellious new girl at his school.
Celia Bonner is quite brilliant as the retired schoolteacher Jessie, putting people in their place with classic put downs.
It somehow feels wrong to single out individual performances as all the actors excel here, even those with relatively small parts.
A tribute then, to director Joseph Meighan and musical director Mark Goggins who ensure the exciting season at the Garrick ends on a spectacular high.
You couldn’t make it up is the only way to describe the true story that inspired Barlow and Firth’s show.
Trafford has a long and proud tradition when it comes to producing top quality musicals and this raises the bar even higher.
Not to be missed.
Tickets are available from 0161 928 1677 or www.altrinchamgarrick.co.uk. Star rating – *****
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