Reviewed by Sophie Ross
Wednesday 22nd February
Reviewer rating: ★ ★★ ★
It’s the return of the well-known Calendar Girls with Gary Barlow and Tim Fifth’s new musical The Girls. Opening at the Phoenix Theatre this week, the show follows a Yorkshire WI group as they pose for a nude calendar to raise money after the passing of Annie’s husband who sadly dies of cancer. The show has the ability to make you cry, laugh and smile and will leave appreciating how special friendships can be. The show also raises funds for Bloodwise, a cancer charity.
Previously on the West End as a play, this version gives the show more life. With a pleasing score that’s not entirely perfect but fits in well with the storytelling, it will leave you feeling somewhat joyous and no doubt will make you laugh. The structure of the show is a little off balanced in which they don’t actually introduce the idea of the calendar until some time after the interval. The first half is focused more on building of the relationships between them, especially a mother/son conflict in which he becomes rebellious after not agreeing with his mothers antics.
The show is everything you could expect from a typical British musical. Like Billy Elliot, it stays very true to where the show is set and the culture of the village. You’ll see fetes, baking competitions, tea drinking and getting the famous chip dinner on your way home. Creating a valley scene by using a tower of cupboards to create England’s “green land”, it stays true to what you’d expect Yorkshire to look like.
Although the first half is pretty slow moving, the pace does pick up and the second half is filled with humour. The calendar shoot is the highlight of the show and gives you a real warm feeling to see everyone coming together. The cast drive this show wonderfully and it’s very refreshing to see a show led mostly by women but also an older ensemble. Friendship is the universal message that runs throughout and the 40-year friendship between Annie and Chris (played by Joanna Riding and Claire Moore) will restore your faith in true friends. Their chemistry on stage is beautiful and they are brilliant leading ladies.
It’s a show that oozes both light and shade, the ups and downs and reality of life. The music is well balanced in terms of emotion and happiness. One minute it pulls at your heartstrings and the next you can’t stop smiling. Ending with Sunflower, a song written by Barlow and Firth, it leaves the audience with a sense of reflection. Sometimes we do need to turn towards the light even when you may feel that you’re surrounded by darkness and it’s an important to end the show with.
The Girls runs at the Phoenix Theatre July 15th 2017.