Review: Calendar Girls, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, April 2019

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The hilarious and touching true story of the Yorkshire WI women who created a cheeky naked calendar to raise funds for a cancer ward is the perfect tale upon which to base a modern musical.

Written by Take That’s Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, who wrote the screenplay for the film Calendar Girls starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, this musical has earned five-star reviews in the West End before transferring to its UK-wide tour.

Given the talent of the writers and the comic timing of the ensemble cast, including Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph, former Jonny Briggs and Coronation Street actress Sue Devaney, Hollyoaks’ Sarah Jane Buckley, 2point4 Children’s Julia Hills, West End favourite Rebecca Storm, At Home With The Braithwaites actress Judy Holt, and The Bill and EastEnders star Lisa Maxwell, it’s no surprise. Couple that with cleverly realistic sets and a sensitive use of music, and the director has created a truly uplifting experience.

I wondered how the story would transfer to the stage as a musical as Tim Firth has already had great success with a stage play adaptation of the film. The play formed the basis of this production which remained true to the familiar tale and the musical numbers such as Yorkshire, Who Wants a Silent Night?, Sunflower, and For One Night Only were inter-woven seamlessly. 

Given the subject matter, it was apt that the music remained a backdrop to the story, rather than being the main attraction.  The songs were used to communicate emotions and feelings during the show and also used to move effortlessly between scenes. 

The scene was set in the first half and the key relationships which formed the basis of the story were laid out for us. There was something which resonated with everyone and which formed the basis for the Yorkshire community where the musical was set – marriage, parenthood, friendships, work relationships, acquaintances, and neighbours.  

The devastating loss of a husband was also portrayed as a huge loss to the community as a whole. Cancer touched everyone in it. 

Then, at the end of the first half, the lightbulb moment happened and the idea for the calendar was born.

We were all eagerly anticipating the second half and we were not disappointed. It was daring, cheeky, and hilarious!

Although hugely sad at points, this musical was never downbeat. It left you with a sense of hope and togetherness.  

The characters were funny, lovable, and drawn with huge affection and humanity.  It kept the audience captivated for the duration of the show and the standing ovation spoke volumes. You simply must see it.

  • The production is at the Wales Millennium Centre until May 11.
  • Bute Place
    Cardiff Bay
    Cardiff
    Cardiff
    CF10 5AL
    United Kingdom
  • Tel: 02920 636377
  • Website:  http://www.wmc.org.uk/

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