Calendar Girls the Musical

Date 11th December 2021
Society Chester-le-Street Theatre Group
Venue Chester le Street Community Centre
Type of Production Musical
Director Julie Dryden-Smith, Assistant director - Rebecca Charlton
Musical Director Chinami Smith


Author: Michelle Coulson

Calendar girls the Musical is based on the real events that occurred when a group of Yorkshire based Women’s Institute members came together to create a tasteful nude calendar in order to raise funds for their local hospital following the death from non-Hodgkins lymphoma of one of their husbands. In my opinion the musical flows better than the stage play or film in that the calendar scene is at the end of the show and highlights the hard won struggle to bring the calendar to its fruition.

The women of the WI each gets their chance to shine in a song well suited to their role, the script and music have moments that make you both laugh and cry. Sheralyn Allon gave Chris the necessary feistiness, humour and compassion that this demanding role requires. She was playing a character much more senior than her years and she did it with great maturity and superb vocal ability. As Annie, Rowanne Allon portrayed the moving loss her husband with compassion, her songs Kilimanjaro and Scarborough were particularly moving. The close relationship of these two young actors was palpable and certainly added to the believability of their character’s close friendship. Becky Howarth was the perfect Cora, strong, confident and witty, her character was believable and loveable. As Celia, Karen Scott gave a strong performance perfectly portraying Cora’s rebellious side. There are two sides to the character of Ruth, she needs to change from being quiet and understated to loud and fearless when she has spent time with her “Russian Friend, again this was played well and with maturity by Elizabeth Blanchard. My favourite character of the girls is definitely Jessie, there is a bit of Jessie we’d all aspire to be and she was perfectly portrayed by Susan Haswell. Marie has multiple layers and her character was superbly played by Fiona Steel, completely believable. The calendar scene that the show builds up to was well depicted and showed the on stage camaraderie and trust that the “girls” had for each other, so much respect to every one of them.

Hugo Davison as John portrayed his character’s progressive illness with dignity and had a believable relationship Annie. He led the opening number “Yorkshire” very well, confidently opening the show on his own.  The role of Rod, Chris’s husband, was in the experienced hands of Keith Hewison, playing the dead pan humour and supportive husband role with conviction. As Lawrence the photographer with the job of managing the famous photo shoot, James Foote gave a good solid performance.

The musical introduces us to new characters including the teenage children of Chris, Cora and Marie, the three young people in these roles were excellent. Rickie Mullen as Tommo was endearing with his crush on Cora and also his love for his on stage mum. As Danny, Luke Rochester gave a confident performance and his drunk scene was particularly good. Caisley Graham sang well and portrayed the rebellious teenager superbly, she is definitely one to watch for the future.

The supporting roles of Denis, Colin and Brenda Hulse/Lady Cravenshire were in the very capable and experienced hands of Geoff Graham, Clark Adamson and Elizabeth Purcell-Smith respectively and a special mention to the Miss Wilsons played by Amy McLellan and Chloe Tiffen, very young ladies who played their roles well. The ensemble gave good support throughout and the full company numbers were all excellent.

The group chose to have piano only accompaniment and this was in the very talented hands of the one woman orchestra, Chinami Smith. The lighting was sympathetic to the plot and the venue and sound quality was good, the scene changes and many props changes were well executed. Julie and Rebecca had worked together with their production team to put together a super production that was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience and I’m sure will live with the company members for a very long time. Well done everyone!