Theatre review - The Girls, The Lowry
PUBLISHED: 15:20 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:21 20 January 2016
Gary Barlow's first stage musical, written in partnership with award-winning writer Tim Firth, is a glorious celebration of the best of British women, says Kate Houghton.
Based on the Calendar Girls film and stage-play, the former co-written by Firth and then adapted by him for stage, The Girls is, of course, based upon the extraordinary true story of a group of women in a small Yorkshire village who, in 1999, came together in a hare-brained idea to raise funds for the Leukaemia Research Fund (now named Bloodwise) following the death of a much-loved husband and village stalwart.
This musical version of the story is utterly brilliant. From the glorious opening song – A Year in Yorkshire – through the ups and downs of the story, the audience is drawn deeper and deeper into the emotional landscape of love, loss and celebration of a life well lived. I defy you not to have tears in your eyes on more than one occasion, as Ruth watches her husband deteriorate, sings her hope and screams her fury as nothing works to save him. This hilly emotional landscape is cleverly reflected in the stage set, a create arrangement of cupboards and drawers that become meeting rooms, flower shops, homes and the glorious rolling landscape of the Yorkshire Fells themselves, home to the unforgettable line: ‘Can you see my nipples?’ that has the audience rolling and an unsuspecting, school-skipping, teenage son knocked for six.
Every character has her own song, her own expression of her life as she has lived it, lives it and will live it. They are often both hilarious and desperately sad; as any woman post-40 will recognise. The marvellous song ‘Dare’ is a repeating theme, pushing the participants to achieve things they’d never have dreamed of, and experience all the joy that comes with this.
The story-telling is marvellous, weaving in the challenges faced by teens trying to find their own place in the world, the day-to-day comfortable routines of happy couples, the misery of loss and the triumph of women who take a single, on the face of it utterly daft, idea and run with it as fast and as far as they can.
The calendar was created to raise money for research into blood cancers and raised more than they dreamed possible. Funds continue to pour in today, through the film, stage play and now this fabulous musical, which deserves to run and run.
I’ll certainly be back to see it again – The Girls at The Lowry is an absolute must-see for any fan of theatre, music, story-telling and, indeed, life (that’ll be everybody then!) and is most definitely worth a repeat view, or three!