Review: Calendar Girls − Shaking up village life in spades

PUBLISHED: 15:32 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 17 July 2019

Calendar Girls.

Calendar Girls.

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You would be hard pressed to find a more heart-warming show than Calendar Girls - The Musical which is playing at Bristol's Hippodrome theatre.

The cast of Calendar Girls. Picture: Alastair MuirThe cast of Calendar Girls. Picture: Alastair Muir

I knew it would be a sure-fire winner before even stepping into the auditorium, boasting as it does a cast of stalwart actors, many of them well-known for TV and film roles, as well as for their years of experience treading the boards.

And when you factor in the music was written by one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters of our generation, a certain Gary Barlow, you just know your evening's entertainment is in very safe hands.

Unless you have been living under a rock you will know the story is based on a true one of course, about a group of women from a sleepy Yorkshire village who belong to the ancient club which is the Women's Institute. They decide to shake up its stuffy image by producing a nude calendar to raise funds for a hospital settee, in memory of one of their husbands.

The stellar cast for this touring production includes Birds Of A Feather veteran Lesley Joseph, comedy actor and presenter Lisa Maxwell, plus Sue Devaney, Ian Mercer, Judy Holt, Sarah Jane Buckley and Julia Hills who are all known for appearing in British soaps among many other roles, as well as other seasoned performers.

Calendar Girls.Calendar Girls.

The acting talent was therefore off the scale, with not one outshining any other and each giving what seemed like the performance of their lives, throwing every heap of emotion into the tender moments of the script and songs.

Rebecca Storm was brilliant as feisty Chris, who has the idea for the calendar and then has to convince the others to get on board, while also battling her own family issues.

And Buckley, who played crazy Kathy Barnes in Hollyoaks, also gave a tender portrayal as the woman who loses her husband to leukaemia and battles to make lives better for patients and visitors at the hospital who treated him.

Worthy of a mention too were the young acting talent of Tyler Hobbs, Danny Howker and Isabel Caswell who each showed amazing depth and understanding of their characters, as well as impeccable comic timing.

Cast of Calendar Girls - The Musical. Picture: Alastair MuirCast of Calendar Girls - The Musical. Picture: Alastair Muir

The script, written by Barlow's school pal Tim Firth, is a touching tribute to the lives of the women and their families as they go from the hilarious exploits of village life, through tragedy, loss, grief and heartache to adversity, eventually overcoming the obstacles thrown in their path to fulfilling their dream.

It is a poignant, yet rousing, uplifting and joyous celebration of the human spirit which can't fail to move even the stoniest of hearts.

And for those who are unmoved by the touching storyline can always marvel at just how tricky it is to position cake, fruit, flowers and instruments to spare the women's blushes while posing for the hugely successful calendar, which went on to raise an eye-watering £5million for leukaemia research charity Bloodwise.

Expect a few surprises, catchy songs, and plenty of laughs as well as tears, and if you only see one show this year - let this be the one.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth with the cast of Calendar Girls.Gary Barlow and Tim Firth with the cast of Calendar Girls.

Calendar Girls - the Musical will be on until Saturday, with performances at 7.30pm each night and a matinee at 2.30pm on Saturday.

Tickets, starting at £13, are available on 08448 713012 or at www.atgtickets.com/bristol-hippodrome

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