I put off seeing The Girls for ages. For some reason it struck me as a middle-aged person’s musical, twee and sentimental. Also, the music was by Gary Barlow, who isn’t exactly my favourite person. However, when the early closure of the show was announced earlier this year, I went along to the Phoenix Theatre in order to catch it before it went. Based on the film Calendar Girls, it’s about a group of women from a Yorkshire branch of the WI who decide to release a nude calendar to raise money after one woman’s husband dies of cancer. This was in turn based on a real life story.
I admit, the first song didn’t exactly thrill me, and I was more concerned that the months of the year were being sung the wrong way around. From then on, however, I began to be drawn in. The first act is a little slow, and there are so many characters it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, but joyous moments like the Christmas scene help move things along.
The second act is even better, the scene in which the nude pictures are shot being particularly amusing. It’s lovely, when I think about it, to see a show that puts older women centre stage, and it’s great to see how the characters change and develop, gaining in confidence throughout the show. The friendship between Chris (Claire Moore) and Annie (Joanna Riding) is particularly lovely to watch. Robert Jones’s set, consisting of dozens of cupboards stacked together to represent the hills and dales of Yorkshire, is clever and inventive.
This musical really grew on me and I can’t help regretting that it’s closing in the West End so soon. It is touring, though, and it’s well worth making the effort to catch it.