Calendar Girls The Musical

"A show to see to beat the winter blues"

As we enter the theatre on this cold autumnal evening, there is an anticipation of warmth from the show we are about to see.  The audience (a particularly older demographic) are warm and kind to one another, the set oozes warmth - a blue gauze adorned with a single bright sunflower.  Even the Musical Director seems uncannily warm with the people chatting to him over the Orchestra rail.  I guess most people are aware that there is sadness at the heart of the story of Calendar Girls The Musical, written and adapted by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow but there is also something too about how love and kindness will warm even the coldest of hearts. 

The current touring cast, headed up by Tanya Franks as Annie radiates talent.  At least five of them have at one time or another been commended for their appearances in Blood Brothers which might have ended up as a Mrs- Johnstone-off but instead there appears a genuine warmth between the veteran actresses:  Maureen Nolan, Lyn Paul, Amy Robbins, Paula Tappenden, Marti Webb all joined by Honeysuckle Weeks.  True, none of them are in their first flush of youth – but they bring a wealth of skill and experience that carry the show.  Each find their character and work it for its subtleties, particularly Lyn Paul playing the former infant schoolteacher – who, when necessary, calls the girls to order. A big shout out to goes to Amy Robbins who brings a real sense of fun to the role of Chris. It's worth mentioning the skill of Colin R Campbell who plays fun loving, ever cheerful, but ultimately sick and dying John.  He plays his role so well that you are genuinely saddened when his character dies.

In this touring production, the musical has been reworked (and stripped back – pun intended) which works only because of the quality of the cast members - but does leave them exposed (yes there is another one) vocally at time.  Indeed, there are not enough women on stage to produce a full calendar which seems odd. The loss of the younger members of the ensemble leaves the show feeling two dimensional and the decision to have a fixed set (in the Methodist Hall) although adding depth to the stage ironically seems to limit some of the scenes.  I liked the new arrangements of some of the songs whilst missing the romp of the original Yorkshire song.  I also missed the Yorkshire accents – as did many of the cast!

All this said the warmth of the original story, the songs and the gentle humour makes this a show to see to beat the winter blues.

This show was reviewed on the 31st October 2023.  Calendar Girls The Musical runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until the 4th November 2023.  Tickets available here: Calendar Girls the Musical Tickets | New Wimbledon Theatre in Greater London | ATG Tickets

Full touring dates can be found here: Calendar Girls the Musical - Bill Kenwright Limited

Review written by Paul Wood

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