Monday, 6 May 2019

Review: Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Review: Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff {Cardiff Theatre and Shows}


calendar girls at wales millennium centre cardiff train
(Calendar Girls poster at Cardiff Central station I snapped a pic of)

The promotional imagery for everything "Calendar Girls" has always put the nudity at the forefront. You can't really blame the marketing team - a giant poster featuring multiple naked bottoms parading around a field of sunflowers incites a double take in most people I'm sure - but nakedness really is a tiny part of the story. An inspiring tale based on true events, it is a lot more than a fluffy show about middle-aged women getting their kit off and hiding their bits behind currant buns.

I saw the film a fair few years ago and can recall becoming quickly engrossed in the story, with memories of getting that teary-eyed warm and fuzzy feeling by the time the credits rolled. So with that in mind, I settled down in my seat at the Wales Millennium Centre, pleasantly full from the chicken dinner and pancakes I'd just demolished across the road at Cote Brasserie, curious to see how Calendar Girls would translate from screen to stage.

review calendar girls wales

The award-winning musical features the music and lyrics of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, performed by an ensemble cast made up of familiar faces including Sarah Jane Buckley, Lesley Joseph and Lisa Maxwell. The plot follows members of the Yorkshire Women's Institute who rally together to raise money for a comfortable sofa in the local hospital's visitors lounge, by posing for an 'alternative' WI calendar. 

As someone who usually gets excited by a more grand, spectacular type of musical, I wasn't too sure if this would be my cup of tea. But I found the simplicity of the story allowed for so much exploration of each character individually, which is something some musicals fall short with. Through covering themes of grief, friendship, marriage, raising  children and ageing, the show didn't need to be hugely dramatic or high-budget to succeed in entertaining an audience and keeping them engaged. There's so much warmth there and the joy expressed in some of the scenes is infectious, it's a little gem of a show.

beautiful photo of wales millennium centre cardiff bay
Beautiful WMC at night

I did go into it a bit worried that the songs would be too cringey or 'forgettable' as some reviews had mentioned they were it's downfall. I actually felt the songs were pleasant, sweet and fitted in naturally. They won't stick with me for years to come, but they were well-crafted and lyrically impressive. A good mix of feel-good tracks mixed with some more tender and thought-provoking numbers. I enjoyed the feeling of "oh gosh I might be about to cry" at the saddest ones; (a little weird, but I find it to be an impressive feat for a show to have that effect on me).

cardiff bloggers and instagrammers thelittlecardiffblog cardifffoodiefan
Getting ready for the show to start with @cardifffoodiefan in the comfy seats in the WMC!

I loved how each woman had their own moment to shine with a solo, based around a personality trait or insecurity that gave them added depth. Showing them at their most vulnerable made you applaud them more when they developed more courage and tenacity as the show went on. Every member of the cast bounced off each other with impressive comedic timing, the second half of the show particularly had the audience in fits of giggles. I have a soft spot for any form of theatre or media that delves into female friendships too; me and Soph kept joking that we'd be like some of the characters when we get to their age and I did come away from it feeling inspired to to keep my friendships as strong and loving as those shown by the ladies in the story.

Gentle in some places, lively and vivacious in others, Calendar Girls is a solid, uplifting musical that will bring tears to your eyes one minute then have you laughing out loud the next. As for the question everyone keeps asking me: "Do they actually get naked then?"...you'll have to book a seat for yourself and find out...!

Tickets for Calendar Girls at the Wales Millennium Centre are still available online by clicking here, it's showing up until Saturday 11th May.

Here's a list of what else is coming up over summer! I've got my eye on Annie and Grease!

(*Tickets provided in return for review on press night)

cote brasserie crepes
Food at Cote Brasserie before the show - two minutes walk away from the WMC, speedy service, highly recommend! Also enjoyed stuffing my face with peanuts and thai chilli rice crackers during the interval.

calendar girls review 2019
Go girls!!! (Please note, Gary does not appear in the show, sorry for any false advertising).

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