***** 5 Stars
“Shimmers with Heart and Warmth”
Based on the 2003 Motion picture that soared into people’s hearts, telling the true story of a group of women from a small village in Yorkshire banded together in the Women’s Institute are faced with the fragility of life as Annie’s Husband is diagnosed with Cancer and despite a brave fight it’s a battle he looses sending the entire village into shock but determined to give something back to the hospital that treated John so well, a new sofa is what’s needed and to raise the funds the ladies of the WI will produce a Calendar. An annual event in the WI but this time the clothes are coming off!
The film was a smash hit because of the beating human heart of the story, no one wants to lose those we love most but life does have to go on, along with the joy, laughter and sorrow that it brings. Tim Firth adapted the film into a stage play in 2008 to great critical acclaim. Then in 2017 in a chance meeting with Take That’s Gary Barlow, Tim Firth revisited his play to create Calendar Girl the Musical. Following a run in the west end at the Phoenix Theatre, the girls are on the road for the first time and making their Scottish debut at the Festival theatre in what is simply a triumph of British musical theatre.
Anna – Jane Casey is the embodiment of “Annie” her performance, as she searches her heart to understand why so many bad people continue to live healthy lives when her “John” (a beautifully judged performance from Phil Corbitt) is so cruelly taken is a true gift to watch. The audience fully relates to her pain and frustration that comes with a cancer journey. She is joined by a stellar cast including Fern Britton (yes, she of This Morning) as Marie and she proves she has the acting chops to pull off this part with aplomb. Scotland’s own Karen Dunbar puts a joyful turn in as “Cora” a single mother living with the indignation of her Vicar father and her comedy acting sparkles. As does Sara Crowe as “Ruth” a woman who gives everything for love before finding her own strength to be who she really is. Rebecca Storm as “Chris” is the lynch pin of the story her ability to deliver such human pathos is testament to her acting skill. British tv legend Ruth Madoc plays the elder stateswoman “Jessie” with a wry sense of humour that’s charming to behold and rounding out the ladies of the W.I is Denise Welch as “Celia” a former air hostess who is the queen of the local gold club, Welch brings that special something that makes not only her part shine but those around her. The ladies are joined by an excellent ensemble cast who bring to life the people of Yorkshire and the bond these performers share as actors clearly comes across the footlights.
Writers Tim Firth and Gary Barlow understand the emotion this piece of theatre has especially in the songs “Time Passing”, “Protect me less” and the finale “Sunflowers of Yorkshire” the music shimmers with Heart and warmth. Director Matt Ryan has truly delivered the goods and the show sweeps you along from the off on a tide of humour, emotion and honesty. Coupled with a natural set and costume design from Robert Jones, understated but impactful Lighting design by Oliver Fenwick all the essential ingredients have come together to produce a new bench mark in musical theatre and a production that will make you think, laugh and cry in equal measure and will have you leaving the theatre feeling refreshed by the power of musical theatre and moved by the strength and courage of those remarkable ladies of the women’s institute who over came loss to create a lasting tribute. Make sure you see the Calendar Girls and let it charm you with its love.
Calendar Girls The Musical, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh until Saturday 13th October For Tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/calendargirls
Calendar Girls will also visit His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen 19th Feb – 2nd March 2019