The Girls

‘THE GIRLS’: Claire Moore & Joanna Riding. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters

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Written by Gary Barlow & Tim Firth
A musical comedy based on the film Calendar Girls
Directed by Tim Firth
Through July 15, 2017
Phoenix Theatre
110 Charing Cross Rd
London, WC2H 0JP
0844 871 7629,


By David NouNou

The 2003 British movie Calendar Girls by Tim Firth was one of the most delightful, original, and enjoyable comedies that came out in many a year. It starred Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, and Penelope Wilton. They portrayed ordinary women on an extraordinary mission.

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have turned an endearing 109 minute movie into a 2 ½ hour plodding musical that captures only parts of the film’s numerous charms. This is surprising, since screenwriter Tim Firth also wrote the book for this adaptation. What was once a lighthearted movie with serious undertones has now been stretched into what, at times, borders on tedium. Basically still sticking to the main plot of Annie Clark (Joanna Riding) losing her husband, John (James Gaddas) to leukemia and upon the suggestion of her best friend, Chris Harper (Shirley Jameson), they decide to enlist the help of their Women’s Institute ladies’ auxiliary group to do a nude calendar of older naked women posing behind tasteful auxiliary duties: baking, knitting, gardening, etc. All this is done to raise enough money to buy a comfortable sofa to put in the waiting room of a hospital lounge with a plaque to honor the memory of the late John Clarke.

Just like the current Broadway mega-hit Come From Away, which has a great opening number “Welcome to the Rock,” The Girls has a similar rousing opening with the song “Yorkshire.” It is an anthem to where the action takes place. Of course all the different types of women are here: the very old, the shy, the bosomy flirt, the ditz, the uptight; they are all here which is grand, but the writers decided that in order to know each lady better and identify with her, each one is given an anthem to herself and most of the songs become dirge-like, stopping the action in its tracks. The movie constantly moved till the end with the stills of the girls each posing in their magnificent hats for a month with their particular home-making talents for the calendar.

After the wonderful opening, unfortunately for this musical, things get bogged down with so many subplots, riddled with so much angst and endless songs, that by the time you get to the end where the calendar is finally coming to fruition, you are more exhausted than elated. Is this due to Gary Barlow’s music? Mr. Barlow is a huge pop star in the United Kingdom, a founding member of the English pop group Take That, so perhaps this show is more geared toward Mr. Barlow’s fans, but the point of his score was puzzling to this American reviewer.

Had the movie not been so perfect, one would not have noticed all the pitfalls in the musical adaptation. The Girls has its moments, but unfortunately they are a bit too few and far between.


Edited by Scott Harrah
Published June 28, 2017
Reviewed at June 22, 2017 performance in London


The Girls

‘THE GIRLS’: James Gaddas & Joanna Riding. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters

The Girls

‘THE GIRLS’: Joanna Riding. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters



The Girls

‘THE GIRLS’: (left to right) Chloe Jackson, Ben Hunter & Josh Benson. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters

The Girls Official London Trailer

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