Calendar Girls at the Bristol Hippodrome Review

9-20 July 2019


Reviewed by Katy Hart

In 1998 Angela Baker’s husband was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. He sadly passed away after only a few months of treatment. Determined to do something positive Angela’s friends in the Women’s Institute (WI) rallied around her and after jokingly suggesting they recreate their own calendar in the style of the Pirello calendar, they actually went ahead with the idea. The result being that they created a media frenzy and raised far more than they could have imagined for the charity Bloodwise (previously Lymphoma and Lymphoma Research).

The potential for a film was realised and in 2003 Calendar Girls the film was released. It went on to gross more than £20m in the UK alone. A stage play followed in 2008 and toured for five years becoming one of the most successful British plays of this century. This musical version written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth was first performed in March 2014 at the Burnsall Village Hall, where the late John Baker had performed with his amateur dramatics company. The musical then went on to have a six month run at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End in 2017. It is currently on a UK tour and last evening I had the privilege of watching the opening evening at the Bristol Hippodrome.

Sadly, last evenings performance was stopped after the interval due to a medical emergency, of course I wish the gentleman well. Whilst this was disappointing, the energy and emotion brought to the first half was incredible. In particular the beautiful sensitivity that Phil Corbitt portrayed in his role of John was very moving. 

Although a very difficult and emotive subject was obviously dominating the first half, there were moments of hilarity as the different personalities of the women in the WI worked alongside each other. Living in a village with a strong WI presence, I found myself relating different cast members to those I know and chuckling to myself on several occasions. Being able to relate to some of the cast however made the show completely immersible and I absolutely loved what I saw.

The very special bond between Annie (Sarah Jane Buckley) and Cora (Sue Devaney) was so uplifting, and Cora definitely brought her experience of comedy on stage to the performance.  

Also, a special mention to Tommy (Tyler Dobbs) and Danny (Danny Howker) – I loved the energy these two teenagers brought to the performance (and I shall remind my children that they’re never too old for a kiss from their Mum)!

I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw, and I’m very much looking forward to returning to another performance to see the musical in its entirety. 

It is a story about ordinary women, who did something extra-ordinary and amazing, not to be famous, but to raise money in John’s memory. The original girls have now raised nearly £5million for Bloodwise – a truly outstanding achievement, and their story is captured beautifully in this musical comedy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).

Calendar Girls The Musical is at the Bristol Hippodrome from 9-20 July 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0844 871 3012.

Bristol Hippodrome, St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol, BS1 4UZ | 0844 871 3012

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