Inhibitions and clothes are stripped off frequently in Calendar Girls: The Musical, Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s stage adaption of the 2003 flick.
Based off of the true story of a rabble of staunchly non-conformist Women’s Institute members, it’s not hard to fall for these Yorkshire lasses who appear to have little knowledge of the conventions of the W.I – yes, they definitely lack a penchant for plum jam.
The days pass swiftly and uneventful in the fictional village of Knapely – much like this production’s songs – offering insights into the intertwining lives and routines of its residents. Englishness is laid out front and centre as Robert Jones’ stage design oscillates between rolling Yorkshire hills and summer fetes, populated by neighbours who greet each other on every given opportunity. All seems swell on the surface, then.
It takes for John Clarke (played by Phil Corbitt), our man about town, to receive a shock blood cancer diagnosis for the pace to pick up. With a shovel in one hand and a motherlode of true Yorkshire spirit in the other, he gracefully continues to go about his business until the inevitable happens.
He leaves behind his tight-knit rural community, his family and his lifelong soulmate, Annie, tenderly played by Sarah Jane Buckley, who offers a stoic portrayal of a woman six foot deep under a mountain of her own miseries and marital loss.
Wet eyes begin to dry as Rebecca Storm begins to take centre stage through the role of the uproarious Chris, Annie’s best friend. Upon discovering her son’s nude calendar, she proposes that her local W.I members should create their own version in order to raise funds for John’s former hospital ward. Begrudgingly, the girls gradually give in, and through skilful choreography and comedy staging, they tastefully position themselves around mixed bouquets, classic scones and all the other traditional paraphernalia associated with the W.I.
Laden with laughs and innuendos aplenty, Calendar Girls: The Musical truly is a rib-shaking, side-splitting riot.
Words: Sophie Williams