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The Girls at Phoenix Theatre – Review

The GirlsAs society continues to battle sexism in all industries, young women are searching for strong and confident female role models who will stand up for gender equality. The Girls by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is a new musical comedy that tackles societal ideals and on-going gender stereotypes through the acceptance of others.

In order to raise money for a hospital settee in honour of Annie’s (Joanna Riding) husband, six Yorkshire women from the Women’s Institute pose nude for a calendar. The Girls observes the passions and insecurities women face through approval from everyday relationships.

Every woman in this musical was seeking some form of approval and acceptance of others: Chris (Claire Moore) was trying to be a good mother and wife, Ruth (Debbie Chazen) was trying to be an upstanding and forgiving spouse, and Cora (Claire Machin) was trying to be a good single mother and father. The script was written in a way that every obstacle the women faced, they were always looking for acceptance over their actions. The perception that women have this constant need for acceptance made the female characters weak and less admirable. Also, in an attempt to take a look at all of the girls’ lives, the narrative of the script was choppy. The focus was on the choices of these women and how it affected their families, when in reality we wanted to learn more about the bond that brought these six women together. The bond between women is an emotional drive that tells a story and it was lost in this show.

The defining aspect of a musical is the score that leads the entire show. The songwriting was weak in the sense that the lyrics had no emotional connection with the story. The songs lacked a sense of female empowerment by pointing out what society sees as flaws of woman; thus, creating an emotional disconnect. It was clear that a woman did not write this musical because the lyrics of “What Age Expects” and “So I Had A Little Work Done” were powerless and far too repetitive. These songs should have been so emotionally moving that any woman of any shape, size or age wanted to jump up ready to pose nude. However, it looked as though the women on stage were still timid about embracing the idea of a nude calendar even when they had to take their robes off.

The Girls has a talented cast with powerful voices that performed beautifully. It’s a light and easy show to watch on a night out with your girlfriends. The gimmicky songs will be quickly forgotten, but the inspiring story of the six women posing nude for a calendar will not. The concept of this musical comedy was interesting, but perhaps The Girls was at its best as a play.

3 Star Review

Review by Alyssa Chromy

The Girls is the true story of the Yorkshire Calendar Girls – a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary. This new musical comedy has brought together the writing talents of Gary Barlow and Tim Firth who grew up in the same village in the North of England and have been friends for 25 years. The Girls originally opened at The Grand Theatre in Leeds and The Lowry Theatre, Salford where it received standing ovations at every performance.

LtoR Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in THE GIRLS. Credit Matt Crockett, Dewynters
LtoR Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in THE GIRLS. Credit Matt Crockett, Dewynters

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new British musical, THE GIRLS, based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play by Tim Firth, Calendar Girls.

The ‘Girls’ are played by Debbie Chazen as Ruth, Sophie-Louse Dann as Celia, Michele Dotrice as Jessie, Claire Machin as Cora, Claire Moore as Chris and Joanna Riding as Annie. Also in the cast will be Joe Caffrey as Rod, Jeremy Clyde as Denis, John Davitt as Doctor, Soo Drouet as Brenda, James Gaddas as John, Jenny Gayner as Miss Wilson (coffee), Steve Giles as Lawrence, Maxwell Hutcheon as Colin, Shirley Jameson as Miss Wilson (tea), Marian McLoughlin as Marie, Judith Street as Lady Cravenshire and Jane Lambert, Rebecca Lewis, Victoria Blackburn and Frazer Hadfield, and introducing Josh Benson as Tommo, Ben Hunter as Danny and Chloe May Jackson as Jenny.

Phoenix Theatre
Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JP

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