Calendar Girls review: Laughter and tears as the Preston Musical Comedy Society brings down the Playhouse roof
And after a tough few years through the cultural desert that was locked down and following the closure of larger venues, including Guild Hall and 53 Degrees, the smaller venues in the city are starting to prove that we know how to put on a show.
The Preston Musical Comedy Society’s production of Calendar Girls is part of this determined cultural resurgence. Staged at the Preston Playhouse Theatre, the show was the company’s first full-length musical in three years and sold out, with standing ovations every night. But why?
The musical, written by a terrific combination of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth and based in Yorkshire, is a story of Nordic warmth and resilience familiar to a Lancashire crowd. It centers around the women of WI, all very different, all battling their own demons – they’re all us. And then they do something extraordinary.
If you know the story you will know that it is based on the true story of Angela Knowles, who lost her husband to cancer and together with her colleagues at WI decided to raise money for Blood Cancer UK by posing for a “nude”. calendar. They wanted to raise £5,000 – but managed over £300,000. The story was made into a movie which made £20million and the rest is history.
This remarkable production, featuring a super-talented cast of largely local actors and musicians and made possible by a team working behind the scenes, is full of heart and stunning in its performance values. Granted, I wasn’t the only one who knew someone in the cast, but you didn’t have to be a fan to know you were seeing a good, fulfilling performance.
From the heartbreaking and beautifully sung scenes of grieving Annie’s emotional resilience (Kirsty Chapman) to the comedic excellence of straight Ruth with the secret drink and husband issue (Amy Llewellyn), you’re taken on an emotional journey. of the whole cast. The subjects aren’t fluffy, they touch on everything from death to domestic violence, from teenage sex to hidden lust – but somehow they raise the roof with glee. Pure hilarity and bravery as they strip naked on stage, bare-bar vegetables and strategically placed pianos. a hilarious joy to behold. Thanks, from Preston.