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A reviews round-up for Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical The Girls

Inspired by real-life events, Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s new musical The Girls has now opened to a chorus of approval at the Phoenix Theatre.

Starring Debbie Chazen, Sophie-Louise Dann, Michele Dotrice, Claire Machin, Claire Moore and Joanna Riding, the award winning new musical continues to inspire and reach new audiences.

This might be the third re-telling of the story (who could forget the film starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, and the play), however it seems they’ve finally got the story just right.

Click here to book tickets

See below for a round-up of all the latest reviews

The Girls is currently booking until 15 July 2017 at the Phoenix Theatre.

 

REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Stage

“Find the rules you knew and break them, / Find the roads you knew, don’t take them,” goes a line in Dare, one of the songs in The Girls. And that’s exactly what this new, all-British musical version of the 2003 film Calendar Girls also dares to do.”

“It celebrates as well as commemorates a true story of a spectacular example of quiet English heroism”

“Like Billy Elliot, it stays faithful to its sense of time and place, but also deepens and amplifies the sense of intimate connection to the audience with a series of instantly catchy and moving songs.”

“It really is extraordinary to see such a spectacular line-up of West End talents blooming, just like the sunflowers that form the central motif to this show’s publicity and onstage design, and holding the stage so compellingly yet utterly sympathetically.”

“the biggest British musical hit since Billy Elliot”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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STAR RATING The Guardian

“a delightful musical that is far superior both to the 2009 play, Calendar Girls, and to the 2003 movie on which it was based. Rather than seem like a piece of cynical exploitation, the show suggests the story has now achieved its ideal form.”

“Once or twice, as when the depressed Ruth explores her reliance on vodka, I felt that each woman was being formulaically given a self-exploratory solo; but even that number pays off since Ruth uses drink to quell her fears about undressing.

The idea that each woman has to overcome some personal hang-up is also deftly counterpointed by the portrait of a community and a profusion of verbal gags.

Sometimes Firth’s jokes have a touch of the Carry Ons: at other times, as when a harassed mum declares, “If Jesus had had teenage kids, the Bible would have been very different,” you hear an echo of Alan Bennett. But the musical works beautifully because it suggests the calendar was a way of vanquishing private demons. These women strip to conquer.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

“This show has been in try-out since early last year but despite much diligent polishing and the raw potency of the score (if you have heart-strings, prepare for them to be tugged), it’s not quite up there with the celluloid original.”

“Technically, it’s entirely apt for the big reveal to come at the show’s denouement but the storyline is apron-string thin as a consequence (none of the film’s second-half wrangling in the wake of sudden onset celebrity has been included). While it does mean there is added scope for a touchy-feely exploration of the leading ladies’ emotional states, from anxieties about body image to the grief of widowed Annie (Joanna Riding) over the death of her husband, the characterisation is also on the slender side.”

“The design is far beyond sniping at. The sound of it, too, is unrelentingly gorgeous and stirring, whether it’s solos or rousing communal outpourings.”

Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph

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STAR RATING The Independent

“A fresh and joyous attempt to reinvent the material rather than some tired rehash with songs”

“a new production that looks likely to stand the test of time”

“The Girls opens with Barlow’s stirring anthem “Yorkshire”, which extols the immutable merits of the county’s green and pleasant landscape and takes us through 12 calendar months in the life of this close-knit community.”

“The lyrics have a wry observational wit that’s ideally suited to tracing the permeable boundary in the show between quirky humour and heartbreak.”

“It’s because they are rooted in everyday reality that Joanna Riding’s superb Annie is able to achieve such unforced poignancy when she delivers the two beautiful ballads “Scarborough” and “Kilimanjaro”. ”

“The lovely melodies in Barlow’s beguiling score sometimes have a distinctively British sound as though he’s been channelling the Parry of “Jerusalem” (which we hear in blasts) and mid-period Beatles.”

“I think that Victoria Wood would have approved.”

Paul Taylor, The Independent

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Gary Barlow’s new musical offers cosy camaraderie and cream buns”

“The perpetual problem confronting Firth, who also directs, has been the inherent lack of conflict in this overwhelmingly feel-good narrative.”

“This new reworking is the most sensible, using the disrobing for the calendar – and the deployment of the best line, ‘We’re going to need considerably bigger buns’ – as an end point.”

“Up until then, it’s camaraderie, personal discoveries and sadness in the Yorkshire Dales, as Annie (Joanna Riding) loses her husband to cancer and is comforted by her WI friends, above all gung-ho Chris (Claire Moore).”

“a pleasant and poignant evening”

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Unfortunately Barlow has gon a bit ‘method’ for this musical version of Tim Firth’s hit Britcom ‘Calendar Girls’. There are a couple of nice ditties (notably ‘Sunflower’) but Barlow pretty much joins in with the prevailing British musical theatre trend of sprawling, patter-heavy songs full of kitchen sinky observations on the minutiae of like in rural Yorkshire. ”

“Perhaps he thought a poignant comedy about a bunch of middle-aged WI members ins’t theplace for soaring pop athems a la ‘Rule the World’ or ‘Back for Good’; but considering that’s Barlow’s stock-in-trade, it’s a shame how indistinct his voice feels here.”

“Riding makes for a warm, dignified lead, and Firth – who directs – weights it all nicely..”

“But what might have been the debut of a major new West End force feels virtually indistinguishable from a dozen other mildy charming Brit musical of the last decade or so”

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

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