Opening nights are generally a bit of a special night and tonight’s opening night was no different... With a blue carpet and sunflowers dotted everywhere, the mood was most definitely set beautifully... We were met by a lovely gentleman who talked us through our evening and wished us a pleasant one. Whilst waiting for the doors to open, we were treated to some lovely music by the Glossop WI League of Ladies choir who sang some wonderful covers including Hallelujah and Fields of Gold. We managed to speak to some of the ladies in the interval and remarked as to just how uplifting it was – very different but really set the tone...

The set (designed by Robert Jones) was amazing with moving sections of the rolling hills in the distance and a little house that kept appearing, in what can only be described as some breathtaking lighting... Congratulations to lighting designers Oliver Fenwick and Matt Ladkin on some of the most realistic beautiful sunsets and blue skies I ever seen.

Scenes progressed effortlessly being changed by the cast as they moved on and off the stage. I do prefer a live change rather than ‘blackout’ changes – the shows seems to flow smoother with live changes. It was all done very well... There were no issues with sound either tonight as all could be heard when speaking and singing. Congratulations to the sound team on a perfect performance.  

The orchestra under guidance of Musical Director Toby Higgins were fantastic. Never once overshadowing the actors but still producing a wonderful sound but how could they fail, when playing the music of the incredibly talented Gary Barlow and Tim Firth.

It is very difficult to select a standout performance this evening, as for me, they all stood out. Everyone on that stage deserved to be there, kept the realism of an extremely touching story (and yes, I cried – lots) and told it with dignity (well, some dignity - eh ladies?) and pride. Saying, “Look, we can all do something to help”...

It would be very remiss of me, however, not to mention one song that really touched me – the one thing I suppose we don’t really think of, the one thing that never enters our minds, the tiny things like taking the towels down of the top shelf because you can’t reach, and if he’s not there, who will? ‘Scarborough’ is a beautiful, real song and I urge you to check out the lyrics to it. Quite thought-provoking and performed perfectly by Anna-Jane Casey.

As I said this was definitely a full team effort and the entire cast looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Super casting. The fun and laughs came with the ‘photo shoot’ and some very gutsy ladies on that stage. I commend you for your bravery girls. Very tastefully done. Direction was second to none and Matt Ryan certainly knew how to convey this very difficult subject with tact, realism and just a little bit of laughter and joy. It was clear he had connected well with his cast. Congratulations.

Costumes and props were on point for the time and the sunflowers lit up the stage.

We were indeed extremely lucky at tonight’s opening night as some of the original Calendar Girls were there and were invited onto the stage at the end. To see an audience rise to their feet, en mass, was a sight to behold and very emotional.

This was truly a wonderful, heart-warming, funny show with a clear message and I encourage you all to get to your nearest theatre and watch this super production but I urge you not to forget the tissues (I believe the tour is set to continue for some time and well into 2019)... Enjoy the rest of your performances guys and congratulations.

Reviewer: Hazel Bumby

Reviewed: 30th October, 2018

North West End Rating: ★★★★★