When I went: 17 May 2017
Location: Phoenix Theatre, London
Performers: Joanna Riding (Annie), Claire Moore (Chris), Debbie Chazen (Ruth), Rebecca Louis (understudying Celia), Michelle Dotrice (Jessie), Claire Machin (Cora), Josh Benson (Tommo), Ben Hunter (Danny), Chloe May Jackson (Jenny), Marian McLoughlin (Marie), Joe Caffrey (Rod), Jeremy Clyde (Dennis), Alexandra Burns (understudying Lady Cravenshire), John Davitt (understudying Jessie’s husband), Soo Drouet (Brenda), James Gaddas (John), Jenny Gayner (Miss Wilson), Shirley Jameson (Miss Wilson), Steve Giles (Lawrence), Maxwell Hutcheon (Colin)
Creative team: Tim Firth and Gary Barlow (book, music and lyrics – based on Calendar Girls (co-written by Tim Firth), Tim Firth (director), Robert Jones (set and costume designer), Richard Beadle (music director), David Pugh, Dafydd Rogers, The Shubert Organization (producers)
Approximate price: £60
Special points: Nudity
Best bit: For One Night Only / calendar photoshoot scene
If I could change one thing: Better songs
After seeing Angels in America, I thought seeing The Girls would be a bit of light relief. While it does deal with cancer, it is for the most part pleasant and sweet rather than heavy and dark. However, while Angels in America managed to be funny through its darkness, The Girls doesn’t have enough substantial songs to support its fluff.
I like some of the things it seems to be trying to say – women can still be themselves in middle age and beyond, they are still beautiful and sexy after becoming mothers and getting older, they can be great role models for younger girls even if they aren’t buttoned-up and conservative, and they can provide tons of solidarity for each other when needed. However, these messages get garbled through endless repetitions of a few songs (Yorkshire) and sometimes the messages are just bad ones – for instance, why is Ruth drinking so much vodka to get through her life funny? Surely this is tragic and her friends should be trying to help her out?
The lyrics felt especially awkward – as if puns and rhymes were shoehorned in rather than flowing naturally.
The acting and singing helped to keep this show mildly entertaining; Joanna Riding, who I previously saw as Babe in The Pajama Game, was particularly good as Annie, and Claire Moore managed to make Chris likeable and relatable. Ben Hunter as Danny was funny and very sweet – I would like to see him in some other musicals – and I really liked Claire Machin’s Cora in the calendar photoshoot scene.
The audience seemed to find a lot of the scenes a lot funnier than I did – whenever there was the tiniest hint of a joke, even a bad one, they really lapped it up. It’s possible that this show is just not for me.