Calendar Girls, The Musical, Theatre Royal Bath Review

That venerable institution, the WI, beloved of lady jam makers, place mat crocheters, bring and buy sales, and good old-fashioned community spirit, quite possibly had its finest hour with the true story upon which the film, the play and the musical is based. In a small Yorkshire village, the group rallied around to support one of the members whose husband had sadly died after a short battle with cancer; to focus her spirits they wanted to raise money for the hospital and came up with the crazy idea of making a nude calendar featuring each of them posing as one of the months of the year. At the time, some twenty years ago this was pretty avant garde and outrageous, especially where sensible no-nonsense Yorkshire women were concerned.

For this production of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical an excellent cast has been assembled who are all fine singers and actors capable or raising both great laughter and portraying the sadness of the situation at the same time. The group’s unappointed leader, Chris, played by Samantha Seager is a fiery charmer, always up front in more ways than one, supporting her friend, Annie (Victoria Hay) whose loss is still raw, and the reason for the challenge of the calendar. Liz Carney plays the splendidly bossy and snobbish, Marie, ganged up on by the other girls who hatch their devilish plans behind her back. Celia, a glamorous lady golfer with a secret past as sensational as some of her clothes is played by Helen Pearson with much swagger.

 

 

Lyn Paul takes the role of Jessie, a retired teacher used to being in charge and hating growing old, Maureen Nolan is Ruth, at first too shy to take part but after some help from her Russian friend (vodka of course) does a wonderful drunken routine leading to her agreeing to bare all. Honeysuckle Weeks is Cora, a vicar’s daughter and skilled piano player which leads to a great idea for a calendar picture pose.

The two gentlemen of the cast, not at all swamped by these lovely ladies are Colin R Campbell who plays John, Annie’s husband, with sensitivity and humour and Andrew Tuton as Rod the lucky one who gets to take the photographs.

It’s a compelling story, the songs are great and obviously the highlight is the photographic session which is very funny and beautifully performed. The charity Blood Cancer UK still benefits from royalties from every show so as well as being thoroughly entertained we felt that we’d been able to contribute to this worthy cause.

https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/ Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath BA1 1ET

Jacquie Vowles

 

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