Calendar Girls (The Arts Club) [Theatre review]

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The cast of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Calendar Girls. Photo by David Cooper.

Being a Calendar Girls newbie (I knew of the participation of Helen Mirren as Chris in the original 2003 movie, based on a true story, but I never saw the movie), I was expectant and at the same time, excited. I was really looking forward to attending opening night of Calendar Girls (The Arts Club). The production did not disappoint me at all.

To summarize the story, here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:

When Annie Clarke’s husband John dies from leukaemia at an early age, her close friend Chris Harper, anxious to purchase a comfortable sofa for the visitors lounge in the hospital where he was treated, hits upon the idea of printing a calendar featuring some of the members of the Knapely chapter of the Women’s Institute discreetly posing nude while engaged in everyday activities, such as baking and knitting, in order to raise funds. Her proposal initially is met with great scepticism, but she eventually convinces ten women to participate in the project with her. They enlist one of the hospital workers, an amateur photographer named Lawrence, to help them with the concept. The head of the local Women’s Institute chapter refuses to sanction the calendar, and Chris and Annie go to a national congress of the Women’s Institute in London to plead their case. They are told the final decision rests with the local leader, who grudgingly agrees to the calendar’s sale. The initial printing quickly sells out, and before long the tiny village is bombarded with members of the international media anxious to report the feel-good story.

A bigger surprise was for us to meet Tricia Stewart, one of the original Calendar Girls, as she attended the opening night of Calendar Girls at The Arts Club as well. We all gave her a standing ovation, much deserved as she was part of a movement that is, in many ways, larger than life.

On to the review of the show… Maybe it’s the fact that the cause was so important to me (cancer). Maybe it’s the fact that I was coming to the show with one of my best friends. But the reality is, I loved the show. And I can’t single out any particular actress for their outstanding performance. All of them gave it their all. Anna Galvin and Wendy Noel as Annie and Chris have an intense chemistry. Galvin produces a Chris that is enjoyable, quirky and at times, loses the sense of purpose and her own identity when the popularity of the Calendar Girls grows. Noel’s subtle, nuanced and powerful performance as the bereaving widow is simply spectacular. The cast of the Arts Club’s Calendar Girls pays a strong and emotional homage to friendship and love.

Admittedly, it is the calendar shooting, close to the end of the First Act, that attracts the most energy. This is, much beyond the well-treated and artistic nudity, in great part because it is accompanied by beautiful changes in lighting, music, and scenery. Those scenes showcase these strong women coming to terms with baring it all for charity and becoming comfortable in their own skin. Seeing as I was pose for a similar calendar (the Reading Is Sexy calendar, which in fact did not have as much skin as it probably could have), I felt really enthralled by the performance of this cast, and remained enthralled throughout the show.

Calendar Girls is a must-see. You may want to bring tissues along with you. Now playing until February 26th at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre on Granville and almost 12th Avenue. You can purchase tickets here.

Related posts:

  1. Intimate Apparel at The Arts Club (guest review by @TrevorJurgens)
  2. Calendar Girls at The Arts Club (win tickets)
  3. Next To Normal (The Arts Club at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre in Vancouver) [review]
  4. Hairspray (The Arts Club) [theatre review]
  5. The Philanderer (The Arts Club) [review, theatre]

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