The Girls | Phoenix Theatre | Review

The Girls | Review

 

When you become personally affected by a performance on stage, it becomes difficult to write a review objectively and this is certainly the case as I try to pen my thoughts about The Girls.

The Girls is based on a true story about a group of women from a Women’s Institute in Yorkshire who decide to raise money to buy a hospital couch in memory of one of their husbands, who has recently died of cancer. They choose to do this by posing naked for a calendar.

Last night I sat in the Phoenix Theatre ready to be entertained by the story that has already been a very successful film and play but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster on which I was about to embark.

As a woman approaching fifty (shh don’t tell anyone) with body confidence issues and having had my life touched by cancer on more than one occasion, it didn’t take me long to identify with the theme of the show. Do you wallow in self-pity, do you stick with convention and do the right thing or do you dare to do something different and make the most of any opportunity?

The Girls achieves something very rare, during the course of my evening I experienced some incredible highs and desperate lows, I literally cried with joy and laughter at the antics portrayed by the incredible women on the stage yet also shed a tear or two as the subject of death and the grieving process was tastefully handled with grace and quiet dignity.

The Girls is quite simply a celebration of life!  The whole ensemble work together to create characters that the audience recognise and relate to (yes book club, I am talking about you!). There is not a single weak member of the cast, Joanna Riding and Claire Moore play best friends Annie and Chris and it is when Annie’s beloved husband John (James Gaddas) dies that Chris comes up with her outrageous fundraising scheme and enlist the help of their WI compatriots to the mixed reactions of their families.

The original writer of The Calendar Girls Tim Firth has collaborated with pop mega-star Gary Barlow to turn the story into a musical. Was it necessary to reinvent the story again? Maybe not, but their songs give each of the characters an inner voice and a chance to develop further.

And do they get their kit off? Yes, they do! In spectacular yet in a delightfully tasteful fashion. Go girls!

Twenty-four hours later as I reflect upon the evening, I am still grinning from ear to ear (and earlier I shed a tear while listening to Joanna Riding singing Scarborough) this musical has made a lasting impression. The Girls is simply joyous and an exhilarating triumph. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this to anyone who wants to put a smile on their face. Maybe I loved it because I related to it, but I still think this show has a strong liberating message for all. Live for every moment and never hold back.

Congratulations to all involved, you have created something very special. I shall certainly be making a return visit and am already impatient for the cast recording, until then at least we listen to some of the wonderful songs on YouTube.

Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill
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The Girls is currently playing the Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road.

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