BWW Review: Uneven CALENDAR GIRLS at Granite Theatre
CALENDAR GIRLS is a charming story about some Yorkshire women who think outside the box in order to raise money to celebrate one of their late husbands. The ladies of the Women's Institute sell a calendar every year as a fundraiser, but the calendar is usually pictures of local churches or similar. This time, they decide to get a bit risque', but also run the risk of running afoul of the head of the national Women's Institute. It's a charming play that is genuinely funny, and the cast of the Granite Theatre are clearly enthusiastic, unfortunately the production is marred by numerous technical elements that normally an audience doesn't even notice, but when they do, it creates something that's hard to watch.
The main issues with this production are the blocking of the actors, the lighting and the pacing. Unfortunately, the cast seems to just stand in a line on stage and deliver their lines. There is little-to-no movement, which sucks the life out of the excellent script. There are a couple moments that are genuinely good, in particular the scene where John (David Jepson) dies, which is genuinely touching, but for the most part, things just seem stagnant on stage.
The lighting is also both good and horrible. When the women are posing for their calendar photos, the lighting well thought out and works perfectly for the circumstances. In other scenes, there are numerous costume and set changes, which are not incorporated into the story at all, but rather the whole production shuts down for over a minute until the cast are ready to come back on stage. While this is happening, the audience sits in the dark, and then the lights are flipped back on rather than faded up which is a jolt to the eyeballs that's actually painful. This happens many times, and Act I clocks in at almost 90 minutes, a lot of which just feels like waiting around.
There are a few standout performances though. Veronica Strickland as Chris manages the best English accent and has the genuine charisma to carry most of the scenes she's in. Michelle Mania as Ruth is adorably sweet and loveable and Maureen Noel's deadpan delivery had the audience laughing out loud several times. William Pereira as Lawrence the anxious photographer has a charm and delightfully awkward manner that really communicates how his character is feeling taking semi-nude pictures of women he's just met.
This really is a delightful story and with a few small tweaks and more attention paid to pacing and the audience experience, it could be a home run. The actors, though amateur, are clearly having fun and the rapport among them is something that can't be faked.
"Calendar Girls" opens June 30, 2017 at The Granite. Performances are Thursday through Saturday Evenings at 8 pm and Sunday Matinees at 2 pm. Tickets for this show are $20, 62 and older is $17 and children (12 and under) are $12. For reservations, directions or other information, call the Box Office at 401-596-2341. You can also visit our website for information or to order tickets online www.granitetheatre.com.