Calendar Girls The Musical

Date 15th July 2022
Society Battle Amateur Theatrical Society
Venue Stables Theatre Hastings
Type of Production Musical
Director David Sismore Asst: Hollie Jane Saunters
Musical Director Michelle Ridley Asst: Oscar Smith
Written By Gary Barlow & Tim Firth

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

Most certainly the hottest evening in a theatre I’ve attended with a warm welcome from Joanna Flay who contributed so much to this production and armed with five copies of the splendid, briming and colourful programme a full house filled at BatTS tour venue, The Stables Theatre Hastings.

This now well-known worldwide success based on an idea of producing a nude calendar to raise money in memory of a lost true friend provided not only a new settee in the relative’s room of a Yorkshire hospital, but the building of a new wing! Certainly bringing a new meaning to the WI and iced buns. An evening with a rollercoaster of emotions, a musical play with pace and power not allowing us to wallow in grief but to celebrate a wonderfully written script and lyrics beautifully executed by the talented and obvious supportive team in a perfect intimate auditorium. No need of personal mikes here.

The open green Yorkshire hills were set with a projected changing colour skyline - an interesting undulating wooden crated creation designed by David and built by society members, which remained throughout. Chairs were added downstage for WI meetings – set stage right the hospital seat and stage left a moveable counter depicting Chris and Rod’s florist shop. A couple of chairs sufficed for the big London WI meeting. This was David’s simple concept and enabled us the audience to use our imaginations and therefore allowed the pace to continually flow. Seasons and events changed with added props and decoration created by the props team, not forgetting the all important sunflowers, but I have to say their piece de resistance was the cartwheel stand to display cakes – as Marie said’ it’s all in the presentation’! Libby Grainger, resident wardrobe stalwart had a respite as cast took on the responsibility of ‘taking on and off’ by providing their own costumes allowing her to concentrate on her dual cameo roles of Brenda the WI unfortunate speaker and competition judge Lady Cravenshire.

The band was unseen under the direction of Michelle Radley on Keyboard 1 with Lorraine Barry Keyboard 2, Louisa Patient, Bass and Double Bass, Dean Pelling adding Cornet and sharing Rosie Wilcock/Brendan Harris Trombone and finally Josh Symes on Drums, accompanied the uplifting, harmonious, amusing, poignant lyrics, with all credit to the performers. The Company opening of ‘Yorkshire’ provided a grand start and remained the theme throughout.

Victoria Rowland gave a strong outstanding  performance as Chris with her crazy ideas, the florist long-time friend to Annie, John’s loving wife, then widow played with such feeling by Tamara Leggett particularly with ‘Very Slightly Almost’ and ‘Kilimanjaro’. Despite the raw subject matter such good comedy came through too. We all loved the irreverent alternative carols introduced by Cora, single mum and daughter of a vicar. A rousing number performed by Kate Dyer and company. Husband Rob played Denis married to golfing widow Celia – voluptuous ex hostie played by Amanda Porter with a great ‘So I’ve Had a Little Work Done’ flaunting her assets with aplomb. Jessie, unassuming knitter and ex-schoolteacher, was played so very well by Debbie Scarboro putting across the wonderful number ‘What Age Expects’. Finally, Bertie Hustwayte became Ruth, scone baker throwing caution to the wind and finally agreed with a splendid ‘My Russian Friend and I’ and joined the girls in their calendar photography. Adding more comedy were the cameo roles Coffee and Tea the Miss Wilsons, Fiona Bray and Jane Banks. who also threw caution to the wind, with Claire Coull giving an upstanding and proper feel to Marie, WI Chair – elegant hand movements.

Joining the cast were three younger members who characterised well, newcomer and with a sparkle Oliver Albertella created potential Head Boy Danny who falls for Jenny and gave a fine ‘Drunken Danny’. WI Chair’s stroppy daughter Jenny who comes good was Nancy Dyer who impressed with her singing. Danny’s friend Tommo was cheekily played by Art Burnett and delivered the duet of ‘Virgin.’

As his debut David Nicholles presented a gentle and lovable John as he gradually fades but keeps his spirit. Supporting were Alistair Burnett as failing Florist and Danny’s Dad Rod, together with real man of Yorkshire Andrew Barton as Colin. Sam Lewis played shy Lawrence befriended by John, ‘wildlife’ photographer persuaded to take shots for the calendar using typical WI props. This scene was superbly choreographed, and ladies I congratulate you for your bravery.