The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre
The Girls is an uplifting, inspiring and relatable portrayal of the ordinary women who did something truly extraordinary. The musical is based on the true story of The Calender Girls, which was turned into an award-winning movie in 2003, and focuses on a group of middle-aged women in a small Yorkshire village who attend hilariously boring WI meetings. When one of their husbands tragically passes away from cancer, the girls decide to raise funds in order to buy a new settee for the hospice where John was treated. Most of the women think a raffle or bake sale is the way to go, but former Miss Yorkshire, Chris, has other ideas.
The musical strikes the right balance between humour and tragedy. Some parts of The Girls are truly heartbreaking, but it always manages to avoid becoming overly melodramatic or depressing because the sad scenes and comedic moments interweave very effectively in order to stop the audience feeling one emotion for too long. The piece works because theatregoers can relate to the story, and really empathise with and see themselves in many of the characters. One of the most tragic moments of the show is when Joanna Riding’s Annie is trying to remain hopeful as her husband’s condition worsens, and she sings about how they will “go to Tesco” and do all the ordinary things she can’t imagine doing alone.
Writers Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have managed to create strong and engaging characters who are brought to life by a solid cast. Though last night began with a slightly shaky opening number, the actors more than recovered before the end of the first song and managed to keep the energy up for the rest of the performance. Claire Moore (Chris), Sophie-Louise Dann (Celia) and Joanna Riding particularly stand out in their singing and acting ability, but there are no weak performers and the supporting teenage roles are also well acted and provide unending entertainment.
The Girls features a beautifully made set design, which recreates the hills of Yorkshire as a backdrop to the events of the story, with an amazingly intricate changing sky. The tech crew use a range of lighting changes and versatile props to accurately convey a change of location. The show has a very strong backstage team and Robert Jones (set/costume design) and Tim Lutkin (lighting design) deserve to be commended.
Photos: Matt Crockett, Dewynters
The Girls is at the Phoenix Theatre from 21st of February until 22nd April 2017. Book your tickets here.