“I’ve never had a problem with age…It’s only had a problem with me.” – Shirley Broderick as Jessie
This is my third or fourth time at the Stanley. Besides the Orpheum or Vogue, this theatre has to be one of the nicest in the city. It has charm.
Tonight we’re here to see Calendar Girls.
First a film and later a play, Calendar Girls is based on a true story. When Annie’s husband (John) dies of leukemia, the ladies at the Rylstone Women’s Institute decide to show it all for research. In their quest to buy a settee for the hospital where John was treated, they decide to produce a rather scandalous calendar—a nude one. From skeptical to sensational, our English women pose in the buff and soon the calendars are flying off the shelves. With all eyes on the disrobed, feathers are ruffled and friendships strained. But it’s the movies, right, so what is wronged is righted. The end.
We grab our seats and wait a good ten minutes until the play starts. The set design (Drew Facey) is beautiful. I love the cloud backdrop and the wooden arches. I try to sneak in a quick photo but am told it’s copyrighted so no snap shots tonight.
No pic in my pocket, I wonder how well a film script adapts to a stage play. What are the challenges of working from something recognizable and making it gel theatrically? Having seen the film, I’m interested to see what elements stay and which go.
And with that, the show begins.
I’ll be the first to admit I have a slight hearing problem. Yes, I listened to my discman (pre-iPod) with the volume at max for most of my youth—so I must fine tune my ears to catch the English accent. I miss a word or two from each sentence, but it improves as the play goes on. Apart from my slight deafness, the first twenty or thirty minutes are a bit shaky. I take it as character building pains. A game of who’s who, and what who will do, and who’s who to who. Not until the calendar-making comes into full swing, does the production take shape, or start to grow legs.
The women are fantastic. Here I thought no nudity for sure, but to my surprise and elation, they went all the way. Robes at their ankles, the photos are sweeter than pie…or cupcakes, should I say. I love Jessie (Shirley Broderick). She’s the tiniest and most-seasoned actress, and has spunk for miles. Her one-liners are hilarious. Ruth (Jane Noble) takes longer to grow on me. As a supporting role, she plays the reluctant participant. I’m most taken by her when she rips on the esthetician (Lisa Norton) who conveniently is banging her husband. Oh how revenge is sweet! Cora (Linda Quibell) plays her part to a T—a little rough around the edges. Her accent though comes and goes throughout the piece. In fact, a few performers can’t seem to nail the British speak.
Celia (Kerry Sandomirsky) has to be by far one of my favourites, if not for her boob-spilling outfits, then definitely for her ease of character and her distain for golf wives. Marie (Colleen Winton) is equally a star—her voice is dazzling, her prissiness, refined and her outfits, lovely. Her purple and green number is perfect—on stage and on Winton. And might I add legs for days.
Chris (Anna Galvin) and Annie (Wendy Noel) are perfect illustrations of defined and evolved characters. Their spat, effortless and real. As is that between Marie and Chris. Here, acting triumphs everything else.
As for the men, Lawrence (Aslam Husain) is wonderful as the photographer, and John (Shawn MacDonald), a kind and gentle soul. Rod (David Marr) is a little of a miss for me. His accent is inconsistent most of the play.
All in all, Calendar Girls was a good performance. It had heart and soul, with splashes of comedic relief. As a woman, it was nice to see strong female performers take to the stage and bare it all. But masked-nudity aside, it felt like a film adapted to the theatre. The creation of action was slow moving until our ladies shook it all off. From that point forward, it was a play, with dynamic characters and dynamic interactions. Here you see the reward of the character formations of the first half. Overall, a steep climb but ends on a high note.
Calendar Girls: The Revealing True Story plays at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville Street) until February 26th. For tickets and more info, click here.
To donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, visit www.llscanada.org.
(Photo left to right: Kerry Sandomirsky, Linda Quibell, Jane Nobel, Wendy Noel, Anna Galvin, Wendy Noel and Shirley Broderick. Photo credit:: TJ Lim/blog.artsclub.com.)