London Theatre Review: The Girls

Date Posted: 30/05/2017

The Girls musical

Elena Dimama recommends a group trip to see West End musical The Girls – but you’ll have to be quick to get your tickets, as a July closing date has been confirmed

Heart-warming, funny and utterly moving; I think I speak for the majority of the audience that watched The Girls when I say that these are the best ways to sum up what this musical is. 

It is also the interchangeability of opposite emotions that is the great strength of this show – and why I enjoyed it so much and would consequently recommend it to everybody. 

The Girls is authored by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, and an adaptation of the film Calendar Girls that starred Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and Celia Imrie and was based on a true story. 

Like the film, The Girls tells the tale of a group of Yorkshire women who decide to make a nude calendar to raise money for a settee for their local hospital, following the passing of one of the ladies’ husbands, John, from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The nude calendar is the brainchild of Chris, played by Claire Moore, in an attempt to help her best friend Annie, played by Joanna Riding, try to come to grips with her husband’s death. John’s illness is introduced early on in the play and Annie’s handling of waiting in a hospital room for any kind of positive news seemed to strike a chord with many in the theatre – and caused a few tears among the spectators.

The nature of their relationship and John’s sweet character are highlighted throughout the show, making it easy for the crowd to sympathise with the couple and their struggles. This is an emotional show from start to finish, but perhaps that’s why it will appeal to audiences; it’s got so much heart. 

It’s also hilarious, from the tight script to the portrayal of the many different women who have united in aid of one person. 

Claire Moore and Joanne Riding

Pictured: Claire Moore as Chris and Joanna Riding as Annie in The Girls.

Claire Moore plays the supportive and somewhat rebellious friend impeccably, but the real stars of the show are the rest of the cast, who present a realistic portrayal of unforced fun and spontaneity to the musical.

Claire Machin, for example, is hilarious as Cora, a single mum of a teenage boy. I was also impressed by Michelle Dotrice, who stars as Jessie, a retired teacher who doesn’t feel any kind of hesitation to be photographed naked by her former student Lawrence, played by Steve Giles.

The Girls’ set is cleverly designed with a green hill providing a place for numerous scenes, from the protagonists’ houses to the iconic Women’s Institute gathering room. And hats off to the production, who made an incredibly good job choosing actors that didn’t resemble the iconic film’s cast. The cast did the show incredible justice and didn’t try to copy anybody’s previous performance in the roles. 

The singing is perhaps not the strongest that you might expect from a West End musical, but the protagonists put their heart and soul into it and they deserve every credit; after all, it’s not only singing that makes a good show. And I am by no means a Gary Barlow or a Take That fan, but the songs are beautiful, expertly written and do both the show and the story line justice. 

In the last ten minutes in particular, the female cast (and the photographer) give an amazing performance, re-enacting the pictures originally taken by the ‘Calendar Girls’, managing not to reveal too much! 

Overall, The Girls is a beautiful story of what women can do when they have brilliant ideas, ignore people’s judgement and put their passion into it; which is why I loved it and why it received loud rounds of applause and a standing ovation.

I recommend it to anyone who wants to have great fun and feel their heart beat a little bit faster by the end. Note, there are only a few weeks left of the booking period and it would be a shame to miss it, so get your tickets soon. 

The Girls is playing at London’s Phoenix Theatre until Saturday 15th July. Discounted group rates are available through ATG tickets; GTOs should call 020-7206 1174 for details. 

For further information visit www.thegirlsmusical.com.

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