by Rick Bowen
THE Calendar Girls is a remarkable story, A group of WI women, instead of making jam, baking cakes and listening to boring talks, shed their clothes and their inhibitions to raise big bucks for cancer sufferers.
It's a warm, funny and touching tale, quintessentially British. After a successful stage play andfilm, it has now been turned into a musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth and I can safely say The Lowry has a massive hit on its hands. The score is trademark Barlow and while the best songs come in the second act, there are some fabulous lines to enjoy, with the audience frequently collapsing into hysterics on press night.
The Girls is a story of friendship, of people being there for somebody when the going gets tough and it also defies the widely held view women of a certain age are best seen covered up. I'd say the musical is better than the play or the film and it's impossible not to be carried along by the energy of a cast who seem like one, big happy family. To put it another way, it's like spending the night with a group of good friends. The cast's comic timing is exemplary.
Particularly moving are the scenes between Annie (Joanna Riding) and John (James Gaddas). For her thehumdrum domestic routine suddenly seems something worth celebrating, a sort of emotional comfort blanket. John, one of life's good guys, manages to crack jokes even when his illness means he has to use a wheelchair. How resilient the human spirit is, how is it worth celebrating. Annie's best pal Chris is played to perfection by Claire Moore. This is abeautifully rounded performance.
An invigorating mix of comedy and tragedy, The Girls is performed by a cast who give the impression they'd stay on stage all night. You'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll leave The Lowry feeling well and truly entertained. This will transfer to the West End - I'll put money on it.
^ Until January 30. The box office is on 0843 208 6000. Star rating - ****