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Calendar Girls the Musical, - WAOS, Witham

by Guest Reviewer - Christine Davidson




For their Spring production WAOS chose the hit show Calendar Girls the Musical.  With NODA award winning Director, Nikki Mundell-Poole at the helm this was going to be a sure-fire success with both first and second nights crammed with expectant audiences. The rest of the week looks just as good for them with only a few tickets left.


Calendar Girls the Musical, is based on the well-known motion picture of the same title which was based on a true story of a group of middle aged Yorkshire woman who are members of the Knapley Women’s Institute and raised a huge amount of money for cancer research .  With music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and book written by Tim Firth this was a super choice for the society.


From the opening bars of ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ with Jason Norton playing John you knew you were in for a great night.  His strong vocals were spot on and his acting showed tenderness and care for his wife.  This role is a challenge as he has to show his health declining as he becomes frailer and eventually dies.


Anyone who has seen Calendar Girls knows just how vital the friendship of Annie and Chris has to be. Constance Lawton as Chris was the superb friend and supporter of Annie (Susy Hawkes-Dighton) both had clear beautiful singing voices and great accents.  The friendship that was shown between them felt strong and real.  They shone on stage with super stage presence.  Good for Constance as Chris to strip off at the end of the first half asking ‘if anyone could see her nipples!!!’  This must have taken quite a lot of courage!


Alice Ward as Cora was the brave lady who stripped off to be photographed at the piano. the single mother of a teenage boy who had been raised by her father, a vicar, was excellent, using humour and energy to give us her very different rendition of  ‘Who wants a silent night? She seemed always to have a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. One of the highlights of the show was the Christmas scene when everyone were in colourful Christmas costumes.


Carole Hart as Jessie, Michelle Bacon as Celia and Rhoda Taylor as Ruth all portrayed their characters really well and added to the friendships of the group. Jessie was the retired schoolteacher with her rendition of ‘ What Age Expects’ which obviously resonated with the more mature ladies in the audience. Michelle as sexy Celia definitely needed bigger buns. She added to the fun of the show with her clever song ‘So I’ve Had a Little Work Done’. Rhoda as sad, lonely Ruth sang ‘My Russian Friend and I’ using a bottle of Vodka to ease her unhappy marriage. All six ladies were incredibly brave to strip off on stage and huge congratulations must be sent to all of them for all their wonderful performances.

 

The three young teenage performers Danny, Jenny and Tommo (Will Hackett, Liv Possee and Ben Rolph) were great choices by Director Nikki. All contributed to the humour of the piece. Danny and Tommo’s song ‘Girls/Hello Yorkshire, I’m a Virgin’ worked really well. All portrayed great confidence and were very natural on stage.

I loved the two tea and coffee sisters who came on at the end almost totally naked bar aprons and cups to cover their breasts.  How brave!  They deserved the rousing cheer from the audience. Anita Goold as Miss Wilson (Tea) and Tracy Hackett as Miss Wilson (Coffee) were great fun.


Celia Greaves as Marie, the leader of the WI, played the prissy, very  bossy leader really well. Determined to maintain a good image for the group at the risk of alienating herself.  She found it hard to control her daughter Jenny, who had been sent packing from boarding school; she tried hard to get her to conform without success. Celia was perfectly cast for this role.


The six male cast members helped to support the ladies in this excellent show and are to be commended, especially Michael Mundell-Poole as Rod. The ensemble were great and totally supported the lead actors.

Lighting was used well with wonderful sunsets on the upstage rear and the set made by the crew was really well designed with rolling hills, garden gate, and village hall which cleverly hid the sofa and gave the large cast more room to move Just sometimes when the actors were moving they occasionally were in the dark. Clever use of the two large screens either side of the proscenium arch showing first the names of loved ones in memory before the start and in the interval of the show. Later they were used as the hospital and flower shop scenes. I also loved it when the photographer took the calendar photos and each one appeared on the screens.


Musical Director Karen Chinery with her six musicians did a good job but tended to overpower the actors when they were talking so from where I was sitting in the balcony it was sometimes hard to hear what was being said. Props were superb as were the costumes, wigs and makeup.


This was an excellent production and left many of us who have been through cancer crying at the end.  Nikki Mundell-Poole has not only done a great job with the directing and choreography but also has been part of the team raising money for Farleigh Hospice.  At the moment they have raised over £8000 with the sale of their calendars and have a charity auction and Sunflower Ball to raise more money for this excellent charity.


Well done to you all for such a lovely evening’s entertainment. If you haven’t got a ticket yet grab one as you will not be disappointed.


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