Calendar Girls The Musical

"The power of friendship laid bare"

Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s re-imagined Calendar Girls The Musical, based on the heart wrenching and inspiring true story, gives an unfiltered look into the power of friendship through life ups and downs. 

A true story many will be familiar with; the rebellious Cracoe Women’s Institute’s break from Jam and Jerusalem to Pirelli inspired risqué calendar in aid of Leukaemia Research (now known as Blood Cancer UK), a cause very close to their hearts. 

This new theatrical take offers the perfect balance of poignant storytelling, stellar cast, exceptional staging and effortless musical numbers; particularly ‘Yorkshire’ which sets the scene perfectly as the opener and also acts as a golden thread throughout the entire show. 

Tanya Franks was exceptional as leading lady Annie, her portrayal of grief was raw and honest. Although clearly fragile, Annie’s character shines through as a beacon of strength. Tanya’s vocals were impeccable throughout with her ability to convey raw emotion through song simply perfection, especially during Very Slightly Almost (Almost) and Sunflower (as we, the audience, collectively reached for our tissues).

Much like in life, comedy and tragedy go hand in hand, with Amy Robbins as Chris providing the laughs needed to help dry the tears. Together Tanya and Amy gave the most real performance of friendship I think I have seen on stage; I really could believe that the pair had been friends for 30 years or more.  

In fact, I could easily believe that the entire cast were lifelong friends. You could feel the warmth amongst the women, shown through a tactile closeness, not only whilst rallying round a fragile Annie but throughout.

Each musical number and individual performance was outstanding; I have to give a special mention to Lyn Paul as Jessie and her impressive rendition of What Age Expects. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, or perhaps just the theme of the show altogether, but the meaning and lyrics have really stuck with me. 

Of course, I couldn’t review Calendar Girls without paying mention to the scene where the women bare all. Brilliantly choreographed, I felt like I too was a member of the WI right there in the room, willing my new found friends on and overjoyed when they plucked up the courage to ditch the dressing gowns; I cried happy tears when Annie’s prop was unveiled. 

A beautiful portrayal of friendship, grief, and the complexities of life. Calendar Girls The Musical is a must see. 

This show was reviewed on Tuesday 28 November and runs at Hull New Theatre until Saturday 2 December. Find tickets here: https://www.hulltheatres.co.uk/events/calendar-girls-the-musical

Review written by Mel Cooper

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