Calendar Girls: The Musical UK Tour: The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Reviewed 5th September
Having taken the West End by storm in 2017 with their musical ‘The Girls‘ Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have updated the musical and it is now touring the UK. Returning to the original title of Calendar Girls the show is based on the true story of Yorkshire’s own Calendar Girls – a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary this musical manages to mix humour with emotion to create something special.
This production is very similar to the 2017 West End hit. With some subtle changes, it feels very much like the same show and despite some rewrites most of the characters and plot lines remain the same. The story is heart-warming and moving, touching on situations that affect so many people. The ability to offset a hard-hitting storyline and emotions with witty one-liners and comic moments in this show is fantastic and makes it light-hearted enough whilst also capturing the audience’s interest.
Whilst the relationship between the characters at times felt lacking and slightly false things certainly improved in the second act where the back stories of the characters were shown more. Unfortunately, at times, this production lacked heart and emotion. However the finale scenes certainly made up for this. The finale ‘calendar shoot’ scenes are not only hilarious but also extremely tasteful and very empowering for women of all shapes and sizes.
The Calendar Girls as a play is well known for ‘celebrity’ casting and this new production starring Fern Britton, Anna-Jane Casey, Sara Crowe, Karen Dunbar, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm and Denise Welch seems to have fallen back in line with this. The cast are very good onstage and, at points, the chemistry between them is great. However the lack of experience or training does show at times – especially when compared to the 2017 cast. This doesn’t however detract massively from the overall impact and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy the show. Anna-Jane Casey must be commended for the emotion displayed during the powerful songs “Killimanjaro” and“Time Passing”.
The very simple set, by Robert Jones, works well and it certainly sets the scene with the rolling Yorkshire hills always being in the background of the scenes. One issue with this production is its lighting. Designed by Oliver Fenwick, the lighting is subtle, natural and realistic however during some scenes, notably the most emotional ones, the lighting feels too dark. Perhaps this was a technical issue during this performance, but the lighting just seems to detract from the more dramatic performances shown onstage.
Overall this new UK Tour of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical Calendar Girls is definitely worth a visit. It mixes a sensitive, emotional story with comedy and humour and does so tastefully. The music is varied and interesting with some standout numbers including “Yorkshire”, “Sunflower of Yorkshire” and “Killimanjaro”. If you’re a fan of the film, original play or the West End production then this UK Tour is definitely going to be a hit with you. Check it out whilst its at a theatre near you!
Calendar Girls is playing at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury until the 8th September. For tickets click here. The tour then continues around the UK until April 2019 – for venue information and tickets click here.