There’s an old saying that goes ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ and sadly Calendar Girls – The Musical is a prime example of this.

The play version toured for years and after a two year collaboration between author Tim Firth and composer Gary Barlow,  the musical version, The Girls, took to the stage in December 2015.

Premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre,  to great reviews, it ran in London for six months and now Firth and Barlow have re-invented the work, taking it on tour for nine months predominantly in the North and Midlands.

Like most of today’s touring productions there have been major changes and cut backs to get it ready for the road,  mostly affecting the set and the script and they do it no favours.

The whole of the show is played in front of  a badly lit backcloth with hills, that could be anywhere, and an over-used garden gate that after a while becomes annoying. Whatever happened to the set of furniture portraying the Yorkshire hills that turned into cupboards and doors in the Girls or the ingenious set changes  in the tour of the play?

Some poignant and funny pieces in both previous versions are cut or savagely edited,such a pity as they gave it a real substance, but despite this Firth’s brilliant humour still manages to come through in the script.

Barlow’s songs are upbeat and fit beautifully into the plot but you are unlikely to remember them once you leave the auditorium.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the photo-shoot as it lacks that cheeky boldness ,wonderfully achieved in previous versions – especially with the balls of wool and the “bigger buns”.

Driving the show is Ruth Madoc as Jessie,the seemingly straight-laced ex-school teacher who has some great one-liners. I have seen  Madoc as the overbearing Marie in the play and she was very good but as Jessie she excels. .

Sara Crowe’s  down trodden, timid wife Ruth, is pure comedy gold and so believable with amazing comedy timing.

However characterization and energy is sadly lacking in the rest of the cast; they are playing  bland versions of their roles and at times they seemed merely to be walking it through. But in their wisdom the producers had invited press along with invited guests and competition winners to the dress rehearsal. So perhaps after copious director’s notes and attention to technical details as the run progresses everyone and everybody  will get into their stride.

Runs at Leeds Grand Theatre until 2 September. For tickets call 0844 848 2700

For more information click here. 

Liz Coggins is a member of The Critics Circle


You must be logged in to post a comment Login