Calendar Girls – 15/6/22
No holds barred at the Little Theatre
Definitely a show to add to your diary, or should we say, calendar
Most of us are familiar with the true story of the Yorkshire WI group who got nude for charity which inspired the 2003 film, and later the musical written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth which KW Productions has brought back to life for the Little Theatre.
This production is blessed with an endearing cast, every relationship driven by oodles of affection. Whether it’s the mother-son combo of Cora (Debbie Longley-Brown) and Tommo (Tim Stokes), husband and wife John (Andy Longley-Brown) and Annie (Alexandra Elliott), or best friends Annie and Chris (Siobhan Ball), the audience is emotionally hooked on this close knit community from the start. This connection really shows at the end of the opening number when the ensemble forms a gorgeous chorus, with some stunning bass rounding out the sound.
Andy Longley-Brown is fantastic as stoic John, leaving not a single dry eye in the crowd during his final moments on stage. Of course it wouldn’t be as devastating without Alexandra Elliott as grieving wife Annie journeying through an emotional rollercoaster of anxiety to anger and eventually acceptance. Siobhan Ball shone as ride-or-die friend Chris, bringing gusto and superb comic timing to the role.Earnest Ruth is brilliantly played by Tracey Holderness, delightfully emerging from her uptight shell.
Credit to the younger members of the company (James King as Danny, India Lily Cooper as Jenny, and Tim Stokes as Tommo) who delivered the teenage hormone driven side plot to much laughter.
Front and centre due to the U-shape design of the stage, the band excels. Directed by Felix Sürbe, the five-strong crew keep perfectly in sync and balanced with the stage action. It may not be the musical soundtrack you’d blast in the car, but Barlow has written some really good numbers, which unlike the so-called “top-40” musicals actually add to the story and move the plot along.
Despite a few technical difficulties with microphones dipping in and out in the opening number, and cutting out completely for one number, everyone stands their ground musically as individuals too, with a particular favourite being Cora’s “alternative” Christmas carol performance.
The set epitomises Yorkshire with rolling hills in the background throughout, while a slick unfolding switches the scene from the countryside to inside. The lighting is beautifully done, both signalling the tone of the scene and indicting time of day creating some gorgeous dusky moments.
The production climaxes with the infamous calendar shoot, each woman stripping off their clothes and self doubts as the cast seamlessly arrange an array of props flowing into the photo poses and bringing the crowd to uproarious cheers.
While the story starts in tragedy, it’s ultimately a glorious celebration of community and friendship.
Book tickets to see Calendar Girls until 18th June here: https://www.thelittletheatre.co.uk/whats-on/calendar-girls/
Don’t forget your tissues!