Calendar Girls the Musical, comes to Milton Keynes Theatre and boy are you in for a treat and I am not just talking scones!
Calendar Girls follows the extraordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute, prompted to create this calendar to raise funds for charity. If you are from Yorkshire, you will love the opening rousing number called appropriately, Yorkshire. It sets the scene for the WI and all the knitting, baking and crafting the WI organise each year. They always do a calendar but usually its local landmarks. This year they want to do something special as the WI celebrate 100 years.
Annie and John have a relationship that most of us can only dream of. They are still very much in love and need each other. But sadly (spoiler alert) John has cancer and is fighting it but losing. The waiting room at the hospital is almost their second home and has the most uncomfortable sofa ever. When John loses his battle, it is Chris who comes up with an idea to raise money for a new one. And her idea is to pose naked for a calendar. Not just a random idea; it is based on the type of calendars that sell well. It turns out to be her best idea ever.
Annie is played by Tanya Franks and her portrayal was so moving I cried, and I mean proper sobbed. Tanya and Colin (Colin R Campbell who plays John) don’t have long to show the audience how loving their relationship is, but we can feel the chemistry. Chris, played by Amy Robbins, is very outgoing. She used to be Miss Yorkshire she will tell anyone who she meets, but the truth is she misses the attention she used to get. Amy is brilliant in the role of someone who is passionate but doesn’t fit the traditional role of a WI member. This is absolutely her strength and the character I identify with the most.
As the story unfolds and we get to know each member of the WI, it’s not as traditional as it first seems. Celia is played by Marti Webb and it’s a joy to see such a legend on stage. Marti plays Celia wonderfully and with humour. Celia has had a little work done and is not shy about it. I absolutely loved Marti’s song telling the WI. This was an instant favourite with me. Ruth is played by Maureen Nolan has a secret Russian friend. But it’s a Russian friend in a bottle and its not a friend she has introduced the WI friends to. But things have a funny way of coming out anyway and they find out when she drunkenly comes to have her photo taken for the calendar. Maureen is superb in the role.
I love this show so much and the talent on that stage is magnificent. As well as all the singing and acting that is already a joy to watch. Let me just say that I am so impressed with the cast to be brave enough to take their clothes off on stage each night. It’s very tastefully done, and you don’t see anything, but even so, I personally find it hugely inspiring. And with Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s brilliant score, it’s a sure-fire hit.
This is a story about friendship as much as it is about a calendar. It’s about support and being there for each other. A heartfelt story of friendship that we all want to be in. I love this musical and would see it again in a heartbeat.