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Calendar Girls tells the true story of a WI branch in Yorkshire who did a nude calendar (with the strategic use of props to cover their modesty) in order to raise money for a settee in the hospital where one of the women’s husband was treated for cancer prior to his death. The story was made into a film in 2003, starring such acting stalwarts  as Penelope Wilton, Helen Mirren, Annette Crosbie, Linda Bassett, Julie Walters and Celia Imrie. It’s also been made into a play, and now here comes the musical with music by Gary Barlow.

I have to say this musical exceeded all of my expectations – I knew it would be good, but I generally prefer musicals with songs that I know, and I didn’t know any of the songs here. But it absolutely did not matter. The songs themselves were catchy and joyous and helped moved the narrative along. I thought Gary Barlow’s style was all over them, which is no bad thing. However, it is the cast who steal the show here – and they were – without exception – superb.

Annie, the lady whose husband dies, was played by the lovely Sarah Jane Buckley, who was very natural in the part. This is an ensemble piece and the rest of the ladies were played by Rebecca Storm as Chris, Sue Devaney as Cora, Lisa Maxwell as Celia, Julia Hills as Ruth and Vanessa Grace Lee as Jessie. Each one of them had her moment in the sun, and a song exclusively for their character, and without exception each one of them nailed it.

Kudos to Tyler Dobbs and Danny Howker, as Tommo and Danny, the sons of the two of the women, and also to respectively Phil Corbitt as John, Annie’s husband; Richard Anthony Lloyd as Colin, Celia’s husband, Ian Mercer as Rod, Chris’s husband, and Derek Elroy as Lawrence the photographer.

The first half of the show had some extremely funny moments, but also some very emotional ones, depicting John’s declining health (I cried), but the second half of the show is truly hilarious; I genuinely had a stomach ache from laughing so hard. A few cheeky peeks of boobs and bums were funny rather than smutty. This is without doubt one of the best musicals I have ever seen, and I would highly highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

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