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Calendar Girls Returns - Revamped
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
It’s been almost three years since ladies’ favourite, Gary ‘Take That’ Barlow, graced the stage of Leeds Grand with his world première of The Girls, only this time he’s back with a re-vamped version re-branded Calendar Girls.

However, I am not entirely sure what I witnessed last night as competition winners and the ubiquitous Press were invited to the final dress rehearsal for a warts and all performance, including technical glitches. Producer, David Pugh, stood up to give another gushing welcome and Gary made a curtain call appearance at the end. So, is this a review or a description of the final rehearsal? Not entirely sure really!

The most striking visual change this time around was the much-reduced set; far less elaborate and certainly much easier to lug around on a 14-month tour. In 2015 it was a visual treat, this time a mock-up of a simple Yorkshire moorland backdrop. The stage hands will be much happier!

However, in fairness, less is more. On the one hand stage sets are a unique opportunity to do something special or amazing but, on the other, simple also means eyes and ears are more likely to focus on what’s left, the music and libretto.

And Calendar Girls is a well put together show with a witty, action-packed script and more than the odd catchy tune. This time we saw an expanded song list with the addition of Very Slightly Almost, Spring Fete and Time Passing, whilst So I’ve Had A Little Work Done simply dropped the ‘So’, and Sunflowers of Yorkshire sought to bring a softer rounding to the production’s ending.

It’s still a great tale telling the now world-famous story of the lady members of Cracoe WI near Skipton, who decide to bear all in the name of charity and in memory of beloved ‘local’ cancer victim John Clarke, by producing a ‘nude’, but tasteful, calendar of themselves in questionable WI settings!

Also by Phil Hopkins...
Bradford Festival Choral – We Will Remember
Zamboanga - A Very Special Love Affair
Jools Holland To Open Scarborough Spa’s Summer Season
Writing As Your New Career – And Having Fun In The Process!
Rain Man Brings Sunshine To Leeds Grand
It is musically balanced with great pace and very strong on comedy, certainly Leeds Loiners laughed heartily, and it’s not entirely surprising that Barlow and Firth should again decide to pilot their re-vamped version in West Yorkshire, a good sounding board for this musical.

Hi-de-Hi! stalwart Ruth Madoc was a tour de force as calendar girl Jessie – wonderful comic timing – whilst Sara Crowe as downtrodden dizzy blonde Ruth, was magnificent, after baring all whilst under the influence of her Russian friend, Mr Vodka!

There are some big names and some deep pockets backing Calendar Girls, and cynics would argue that a few shoulders pushing some of the right doors is enough to guarantee success.

But how wrong they’d be. Musical theatre is a fiercely competitive sector and fortunes have been lost by some of the most famous people in the world.

However, Calendar Girls has all the hallmarks of a successful musical because it is a great story, full of pathos, well written music and a fantastic libretto.

Willy Russell turned that other regional musical, Blood Brothers, into a worldwide phenomenon, despite a slow start; let’s see if Calendar Girls – at times painfully ‘Yorkshire’ – can go beyond its Tyke roots to become lasting and more than a ‘we live in God’s own country and aren’t we great!’ musical.

Leeds Grand
Until 1st Sept 2018

Calendar Girls Returns - Revamped, 15th August 2018, 19:10 PM