I introduce you to “The Girls” a brand new musical written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow which had its dress rehearsal and opening night yesterday at the Leeds Grand Theatre. I was lucky enough to see both performances, the dress rehearsal from the middle of the stalls and the world premiere from the balcony. The story is nothing new, it is based on the events of Knapely WI (womens institute) who made a nude calendar to raise money for a sofa in the local cancer centre after one of their husbands died there. This story was the basis for “The Calendar Girls” film and stage show. I have never seen either of these before so this review was based on me seeing the story for the first time.
When the curtain goes up you are presented with what looks like a very basic set- a whole load of boxes and pieces of furniture painted green. This turns out to be very inventive and shows the different settings throughout the show and brings you to imagine the bright countryside of Yorkshire. The lighting further enhances this.
The story is uplifting, funny and at times heart-breaking as you are taken through the narrative by a stellar cast. While the play is often filled with famous names, this has a relatively unknown cast but they all bring their own personalities and nuances to their parts effectively. The singing on the whole was strong, the only thing I did wonder about was whether some of the characters were supposed to be from the North East as they sounded quite Geordie or whether that was just a slight issue with some of their accents. It doesn’t make much of a difference to the overall effect of the piece but was just an observation. There were many solid performances but there were two that particularly stood out above the rest: Claire Moore as Chris one of the main protagonists whose powerful singing voice and strong personality was outstanding and Ben Hunter as her son Danny who played the awkward teenager trying to find his place in life perfectly.
The songs are the “new” part of this show. They are catchy, tuneful with clever lyrics and pleasant melodies. They do enhance the performance throughout.
The calendar shoot set piece was hilarious and really well done.
The Girls is a good new piece of writing and I was honoured to be in the audience with the actual Calendar Girls and their families who were nearly all in tears by the end. There is some bad language and while most nudity is covered, there are still occasions when you do see the odd breast etc, so this may not be suitable for younger children but I would highly recommend it for a heart-warming night out. Thoroughly enjoyable!!
For further dates and locations visit the official website here.
Have you seen The Girls yet or do you have plans to? Is there any other new theatre you have seen and enjoyed recently?