Make a date with the Calendar Girls – Review

Make a date with the Calendar Girls – Review

UNLESS you’ve been living in a bunker for the last 20 years, you’ll be familiar with the famous story this new musical is based upon.

Calendar Girls The Musical, Gary Barlow, Birmingham Hippodrome

But, for the benefit of those emerging from bunkers – this is the touching true tale of a group of ladies from a Yorkshire village who appeared naked for a WI calendar to raise funds for a settee for their local hospital following the death of one of their husbands.

It’s latest incarnation (it’s been a hugely successful play and film) had much to live up to. There was a lot riding on Gary Barlow’s musical score which, in his collaboration with the play’s original writer Tim Firth, had the potential to take the show to a new level.

And, I’m delighted to say, that it did.

It’s a delicate balance of emotions – there is the potential for tears of both laughter and sadness pretty much throughout the show (either way, that’s lots of tears!) –  and the subjects of love, loss, loneliness and friendship are captured most beautifully through Barlow’s numbers. It would have been easy to underline the script with a string of sad ballads – and there are its fair share of those – . but in fact, one walks away at the end of the evening feeling uplifted and ready to take on the world – whatever it might throw at us.

Calendar Girls The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome, Gary Barlow, Tim Firth
The Calendar Girls cast with Gary Barlow and Tim Firth

For this is a show about an ordinary group of people with ordinary lives achieving quite extraordinary things. – Did you know the ladies upon which this story is inspired raised almost £5 million for blood cancer charity Bloodwise through their combined efforts? Quite right too then that their legacy should continue to live on through the arts.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a show about grief, it’s a show about relationships and is more heartwarming than heartbreaking. The emotion is, at times, raw and you’ll have your share of wobbly lip moments (unless you’re made of stone) but, on the whole, it’s a celebration of endearment and emotional endurance (theirs and ours!) And as a show I believe it will also endure.

On its first UK tour following a stint in London’s West End, Calendar The Musical is in the hands of a most capable cast, many of whom are familiar faces from our TV screens.

Lesley Joseph of Birds of a Feather fame, Hollyoaks star Sarah Jane Buckley; Casualty actress Sue Devaney; Broadchurch star Julia Hills; Judy Holt of Cold Feet; Rebecca Storm from Les Miserables and ‘Loose Woman’ Lisa Maxwell make for a formidable acting line-up that handles everything thrown at them. And the heavy smattering of hysterical one-liners were fairly evenly distributed! The laugh-out-loud moments were among some of the funniest I’ve encountered in the theatre.

In a departure from the original script, Firth further explores the roles of the teenage characters and it’s a stroke of genius, adding more comedy gold to proceedings.

Calendar Girls The Musical, Birmingham Hippodrome

Act One at first seems to move quite slowly but, in fact, builds nicely towards a much-anticipated second act when the calendar photoshoot scenes for which the show is most famous, bring down the house.

There’s wonderful chemistry between these ladies who are clearly having an absolute ball getting their kit off night after night! And so were we.

Calendar Girls the Musical is raw, charming and uplifting and should not be missed. There’s plenty of time to still catch it locally as it runs at The Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, June 8th.

Mamma Mia. . . Hippodrome is set to rock you!

Mamma Mia. . . Hippodrome is set to rock you!

THERE is exciting news for fans of Queen and Abba with the announcement that tickets soon go on sale for two blockbuster mega-musicals We Will Rock You (20 Apr – 2 May 2020) and MAMMA MIA! (12 -31 May 2020) at The Birmingham Hippodrome.

We Will Rock You returns to the Hippodrome next year.

Following triumphant 2009 and 2011 UK theatre tours and a 2013 10th anniversary world arena tour, the smash hit Queen and Ben Elton musical, We Will Rock You returns to Birmingham in a reimagined production.

Since 2002 over 15 million theatre-goers in 17 countries have been thrilled by the show’s awe-inspiring production showcasing a number of Queen’s finest hits, including We Are The Champions, Radio Ga Ga, Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites The Dust and, of course, We Will Rock You.

Producer of We Will Rock You, Phil McIntyre said: “We are really looking forward to bringing this true Rock Theatrical back to the Birmingham Hippodrome.  We had standing ovations night after night last time round, so we can’t wait to see that happen all over again.  May the Rhapsody play on forever!”

Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia.

The sensational feel-good musical MAMMA MIA! will return to Birmingham Hippodrome as part of a UK Tour celebrating 20 years since the record-breaking production premiered in London in April 1999.

From West End to global phenomenon, MAMMA MIA! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with a sunny, funny tale of a mother, a daughter and three possible dads unfolding on a Greek island idyll. To date, it has been seen by over 60 million people in 50 productions in 16 different languages. 

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Birmingham Hippodrome said: “The arrival of these two major musical juggernauts in 2020 continues Birmingham Hippodrome’s reputation for bringing the very best in theatre and live entertainment to Midlands audiences.

We Will Rock You (20th April – 2nd May 2020) and MAMMA MIA! (12th -31st May 2020) will go on sale to Hippodrome Friends and Patrons on 11th March, groups on 26th March and on general sale from 2nd April.