Reviewed by Catherine Brown
The hilarious and heart-warming musical ‘Calendar Girls’ is currently at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-On-Trent as part of a national tour. The poignant show written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, originally released as a film, is based on the true story of a group of Women’s Institute members who create a unique fundraising calendar.
Right from the outset, the audience are transported to the Yorkshire dales with a clever countryside backdrop and introductions to members of the local WI. The ladies include best friends Annie and Chris whose worlds are rocked when Annie’s husband John is diagnosed with cancer. During his treatment they spend time in the hospital waiting room on uncomfortable seats. Along with a daring gardening calendar this gives them the idea to fundraise for a new comfy seat using some very daring photographs.
The reactions to the idea vary and there are lots of ups and downs before the revealing pictures are taken. I was very impressed by the braveness of the actors with the amount of flesh they actually showed, however it is all stage managed very well. The show combines musical numbers and lots of laughs while also focusing on friendship and loss. Songs by Gary Barlow including the tearjerker ‘Who wants a silent night’ and entertaining ‘I’ve had a little work done’ indicate the range of emotions contained within in the production.
Anna-Jane Casey playing Annie gave outstanding vocal performances, demonstrating both a strength and vulnerability to her character. She was supported well by Denise Welch as ex-air hostess Celia and Fern Britton the uncooperative chair of the WI. Another bonus was the inclusion of teenagers Jenny, Danny and Tommo who gave more opportunity for giggles at the drama of embarrassing parents.
The Regent Theatre is in the Hanley area of the city and as always the staff were warm and welcoming. The piano bar is a perfect place to have a pre-show glass of wine with a musical accompaniment, while the main foyer stocks a variety of drinks and snacks. I had a fantastic time and would give this show a 5/5 rating.
Tickets cost from £15.40 to £52.65 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).
Calendar Girls – The Musical is at the Regent Theatre in Stoke from 13-17 November 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/regent-theatre or call the box office on 0844 871 7649.
Regent Theatre, Piccadilly, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1 1AP | 0844 871 7649