Calendar Girls The Musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, Bristol Hippodrome (


Calendar Girls the Musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is
without question a production of great integrity and warmth. It is inspired by
the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s
Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local
hospital, in memory of one of their husbands. The show has huge amounts of
humour and pathos concentrating on the overwhelming support of a community to
create something quite extraordinary.

One of the key successes to this life affirming, heart-breaking
yet glorious tale is the immaculate direction from Matt Ryan. The subtle time
changes and repeated patterns onstage underpin moments of emotional highs and
lows with great effect. Alongside this precision the Yorkshire countryside is
recaptured in a simple yet beautiful set and lighting design by Robert Jones
and Oliver Fenwick respectively.

The apparent simplicity and energy of this remarkable tale
belies its huge heart which is safe in the hands of an outstanding cast.  The score does not demand anything more than great
vocals coupled with exceptional storytelling and here we have it in bucket

The company are universally strong from Sarah Jane Buckley
(Annie) and Rebecca Storm (Chris) as long term friends alongside Sue Devaney
(Cora), Julia Hills (Ruth), Lesley Joseph (Jessie), Lisa Maxwell (Celia) and
Judy Holt (Marie.)  The dynamic of this
group is utterly engaging throughout as are the scenes involving the excellent
trio of Tyler Dobbs (Tommo,) Danny Howker (Danny) and Isabel Caswell (Jenny.)

The husbands stand stoically by watching their loved just
shirk tradition and create something ground breaking. There is not a weak link
in the characterisation of this great team.

There is so much to enjoy in this celebration of humanity
and community. The effect is powerful and long lasting; a show that no doubt
will touch the hearts of the audience in many different ways but the overriding
joy and triumph of friendship in the face of adversity is quite beautiful and
the spontaneous standing ovation definitely well deserved.


Petra Schofield