Calendar Girls The Musical

Date 23rd June 2022
Society Hereford Musical Theatre Company
Venue The Tomkins Theatre, Hereford
Type of Production Musical
Director Nigel Holloway
Musical Director Jenni Axtell
Choreographer Vickie Beddoes
Producers Nicky Willett & Richard Davies
Written By Gary Barlow & Tim Firth

Report

Author: Bruce Wyatt

For the few unlikely to know the real - life story, the death of a much-loved husband prompts a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute to do an extraordinary thing, blasting away all preconceptions, they decide to do an artistic nude calendar to raise money for cancer research. By 2019, the sale of calendars, a film and the stage show had raised funds exceeding £5m.

In front of a good-looking set, ‘John’ that much- loved husband and the company, established the scene with a great opening number “Yorkshire” which introduced many of the locals. ‘John’ was played by Ian Burrell with great stage presence and a strong clear voice. The driving force behind the calendar are ‘Chris’ (Sarah Rowberry) a close friend of ‘Annie’ (Michelle Morgan), John’s wife. Here the play is given great strength in these characters who both excel in delivery of lines and in song. They worked well individually and together when their own relationship is tested regarding the motivation behind the calendar. Both provided some moving moments within some strong songs including “Very Slightly Almost”, “Sunflower” and “Kilimanjaro”.

Act 1 concludes on a high point with “Dare” sung by ‘Chris’ and ‘Annie’ together with the other ‘calendar girls’ ‘Cora’ (Charlotte James), ‘Celia’  (Caroline Millington) ‘Jessie’ (Trish Chandler) and ‘Ruth’ (Nicky Willett), who all excelled. Their performances were quite inspirational.  The connection between them was tangible and they obviously worked well as a team.

Some younger talent in the form of Hugo John (‘Danny’), Theo Kitchener (‘Tommo’) and Emily Gardner (the convincingly rebellious ‘Jenny’) are also ones to look out for in future, who projected very well indeed. I really liked “Protect Me Less” with Hugo and Emily in Act 2. Another highlight for me was “What Age Expects” sung poignantly and with great sensitivity by ‘Jessie’ (Trish Chandler) and ‘Ruth’s’ “My Russian Friend and I” which gave her the courage to join the other calendar girls for the photo shoot at the last minute. Despite opposition from ‘Marie’ the WI Chair (Well played by Del Barrington) matters proceed.  A nice touch to the story was using John’s hospital porter (‘Lawrence’) as a reticent photographer played well by Alex Rowberry. This scene was very sensitively carried out.

The supporting company were all engaged and with just one exception the 4-piece band supported the soloists well rather than overpowering them. The many scene changes within the fixed set were undertaken efficiently and a brief use of projection worked well.  The director Nigel Holloway and all involved should be very pleased with the result, which I really enjoyed.