BWW Review: CALENDAR GIRLS, King's Theatre, Glasgow
Calendar Girls is based on the story of a man named John Baker who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1998 in Yorkshire. John was part of a close-knit community and when he passed away, his wife Angela and her friends at the Women's Institute had an unusual idea to raise some money in his name.
Calendar Girls was released as a film in 2003 and then toured as a stage version from 2008. In 2014 this current version debuted in the Burnsall Village Hall where John Baker had performed with his amateur dramatics company before heading to the West End where it had a successful six-month run.
The women decide to pose for a typical WI calendar with flowers and baking etc but with a difference- they'll be nude. The high points of the production are the scenes that feature the ensemble cast as the convincing relationships between the ladies in the WI as the cast are just wonderful.
Karen Dunbar plays up to a home audience but without verging into pantomime territory. I'm only guessing as I haven't seen this production elsewhere but I suspect referring to her son as 'bawjaws' wasn't in the original script for the London run! Rebecca Storm is also wonderful as Chris who is the first to embrace the idea of the calendar and brings a lot of fun to the stage.
One of the big selling points of this show is that the music is written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth and unfortunately it was where Calendar Girls lost me a little. While I adore the story and the cast all have excellent singing voices- I found the music forgettable and it made me quite detached from the emotion in the show.
There are a wealth of themes addressed in Calendar Girls such as women's roles in society, body image, getting older and grief which is quite unusual to see in a musical but definitely important and one of the main strengths of the production.
Overall, I found Calendar Girls to be a bit of a mixed bag. It's a great story but I found that the music didn't add anything to it and made it quite saccharine. It's saved by a fantastic cast but you probably won't be humming the songs on your way home.
Calendar Girls is at the King's Theatre, Glasgow until 22 June.