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Calendar Girls The Musical - KW Productions Review

Keiran Whelan-Newby mentions in his programme notes that after 5 visits to see the original London production of Calendar Girls The Musical (then titled 'The Girls') he "swore that when the amateur rights were released, I would snap them up". Thankfully they were released and thankfully Keiran snapped them up and he brings to life this moving piece of theatre in a glorious way.

Alexandra Elliott (Annie), Tracey Holderness (Ruth), Siobhan Ball (Chris) and the company. Photo by Gina Fernandes Photography.

For those not au fait with Calendar Girls, it started its life as a 2003 hit movie which itself is based on the real-life events following the death of John Richard Baker in 1998 and the Rylstone's Women's Institute nude charity calendar that was released with aims to raise funds for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. The film spawned a play and then a musical written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow

The story fluctuates between its comedy and its heartbreaking emotion. The superb casting sees the company beautifully play both. In their comedic moments, they are hilariously funny and in the sadder moments, they are devastatingly sad.  

Alexandra Elliott is effortlessly excellent as Annie. The way she molds the character around the heartbreak of losing her husband John, played superbly by Andy Longley-Brown, to then bounce back and want to celebrate his life. Her vocals are pitched perfectly too particularly in the moving number 'Kilimanjaro'. Siobhan Ball is a hoot as best friend Chris, her energy and comedy are delightful to watch but she also manages the emotional side with real skill. 

Each member of the WI is hugely impressive in bringing their role to life from Debbie Longley-Brown's joyous Cora, Tracey Holderness's shy Ruth, Liz Kavanagh Knott's confident Celia, Jane Towers's assured Jessie or Mary Delahunty and Karen Hamilton as the two Miss Wilson's. 

Much praise must be cast upon all the ladies who not only act and sing well but confidently manage the calender number 'For One Night Only' which sees them all stripping off for the photoshoot with real aplomb. Each member gets a rousing round of applause as they reveal their bodies for the shoot and rightly so. 

Alexandra Elliott (Annie) and Siobhan Ball (Chris). Photo by Gina Fernandes Photography.

Fine supporting work is done by teenage couple James King as Danny and India Lily Cooper as Jenny. They match together well in performance and make the pair believable. Karen Gordon does a great job of capturing the diligent nature of WI chair, Marie.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth's beautiful score is brought to life by a magnificent 5 piece band helmed by musical director Felix S├╝rbe. Numbers like 'Dare' that closes the first act are performed with real heart by the cast.

Visually the piece is well lit with lighting by Andy and Alex Crooks. A strong soundscape is provided by Tom Brooks, Mark Harrison and Tim Neville and the set provided by Scenic Projects Stage Sets roots the scenes perfectly in the rolling Yorkshire hills and the WI village hall.

The vision by Keiran Whelan-Newby that helms the production is outstandingly brought to life by the enthusiastic and talented company on and off stage. Calendar Girls The Musical is a deeply touching, hugely uplifting life-affirming piece of theatre and this production is first-rate. Pure theatrical magic.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Calendar Girls The Musical runs at Leicester's Little Theatre until Saturday 18th June 2022. Very limited tickets are available from the theatre's website.

The cast of Calendar Girls The Musical. Photo by Gina Fernandes Photography.

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