Calendar Girls at Leeds Grand review: A musical with heart and soul

The news is: it works and then some.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 2nd December 2015, 3:56 pm

It’s a cliche to say that a show can make you laugh and cry, but The Girls does both in abundance. The musical written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, is based on the story of the women of the Rylstone Women’s Institute who took their kit off for a calendar and raised millions of pounds. They also created a legacy which has raised millions of smiles since Firth turned their story first into a film and then into a stage play.

Can a story so rooted in Yorkshire travel outside the county? Will a story about middle-aged women appeal to audiences outside that bracket? The reason the answer to both questions is yes, is because Tim Firth is a master craftsman. A cast as large as this means you have to display enormous finesse to move each character away from caricature. With the thinnest slivers of script, Firth brings us rich individual stories that are mere bit parts to the heart of this musical, which is ultimately a story of friendship and triumph over adversity.

Holding the strands together is the friendship of Annie and Chris. Joanna Riding as Annie and Claire Moore as Chris, absolutely inhabit their roles.

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The music? Barlow knows how to write a tune. The swing inspired Who Wants a Silent Night? and the surprisingly moving What Age Expects join So I’ve Had A Little Work Done in a perfect demonstration of why this musical will do so well.

In creating a new musical with this much heart and soul, Firth and Barlow have done something that will last a long time.