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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Calendar Girls
Noel Coward Theatre      Spring-Winter 2009

This is a nice show.

It tells a familiar story, offers some laughs and a few touches of sentiment, features a cast of familiar TV faces and entertains without making you work hard or in any way become uncomfortable. There is no reason why it shouldn't have a profitable run.

It's nice.

And if that seems like faint praise, I'm afraid I have nothing stronger - positive or negative - to say about it. This is a Good Night Out for those with minimal expectations, a safe choice for those who aren't really theatregoers.

As the world knows, in 1999 a Yorkshire Women's Institute (Americans, think Junior League) created a charity calendar featuring ladies of A Certain Age in decorously nude poses. What was supposed to be a local seller attracted world-wide news coverage and wound up raising millions of pounds.

The story was actually rather uneventful, and the 2003 movie had to invent some bickering and minor hurdles for the ladies to overcome. Now Tim Firth, one of the screenwriters, has adapted it for the stage, mainly by rearranging things so most of it can happen on one set.

So Act One introduces the ladies and shows them getting the idea for the calendar, overcoming their shyness and then joyfully (and decorously) posing. In Act Two they get through a few small crises, make lots of money and live happily ever after.

If you think of the film cast - Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton et al - as the ideal, then the stage cast feels like an excellent second-year replacement or first-string road company. They are all fine, though few bring anything special to their roles, either in interpretation or star power.

Lynda Bellingham is feisty as the ringleader, Patricia Hodge perhaps a bit too cheerful and resilient as the widow. Sian Phillips gets all the acerbic zingers as the eldest, Elaine C. Smith most of the mildly bawdy lines as the earthy one, and so on.

Calendar Girls will make a very pleasant entertainment for a summer evening. It's an ideal show to bring your provincial auntie to, or for tourists who have already seen The Mousetrap.

It's nice.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Calendar Girls - Noel Coward Theatre 2009
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