Calendar Girls the Musical

DATE1st November 2022
SOCIETYNorthampton Musical Theatre Company
VENUEThe Royal and Derngate, Northampton
TYPE OF PRODUCTIONMusical
DIRECTORMartyn Knight
MUSICAL DIRECTORRod Iliffe
CHOREOGRAPHERLottie Franks
PRODUCERCatherine James
WRITTEN BYGary Barlow and Tim Firth

Report

Author: Luke Campbell

Opening Remarks

I last visited Northampton Musical Theatre Company (NMTC) in October 2018 to review its then production of West Side Story. In my show report I noted:

When it comes to musicals in my district (and our region), Northampton Musical Theatre Company (NMTC) is the business, the big boys! This long running concern stages well-known musicals every year and does so to a professional standard. With this in mind, I was very much looking forward to my first visit to NMTC as its NODA representative, and in the round this maiden visit did not disappoint.

Some things, despite the impact of Covid-19 and the concerning economic climate, never change: NMTC remain ‘the business, the big boys’ and continue to produce work of a ‘professional standard’.

And, I can say with great happiness, that my second visit to NMTC lived-up to my maiden visit and, equally, did not disappoint!

From start to finish, from on stage to off stage, NMTC’s production of ‘Calendar Girls the Musical’ (Calendar Girls) was of an exceptionally hight standard: it was a professional production.

The Show

Calendar Girls the musical is based on the well know motion picture of the same title, which is – of course – based on a true story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women, that are members of the Women’s Institute, who produced a nude calendar to raise money for cancer research.

The music and lyrics were produced by Gary Barlow and the book was written by Tim Firth. The show was a success in the West End and has had several well received national tours.

I, personally, loved the score, lyrics, and book. It lightened my heart, made me feel warmth and joy, but also sadness and loss. I left with the songs in my mind and heart, and thankful for the opportunity to watch such a brilliant musical.

Creatives

Direction by Martyn Knight was brilliant! The blocking was to perfection, the characterisation achieved was superb, and the relationships and interaction built between the cast outstanding.

Martyn’s direction of the company numbers was excellent. His approach to more intimate scenes was also of a high standard. I specially congratulate him on the direction of Act 2, Scene 8 ‘Village Hall’ in which he masterfully directed the female leads in the nude photo shoot: perfection was achieved for the cast and audience.

Musical direction by Rod Iliffe was excellent. The texture and rich sound produced in numbers like “Yorkshire” and “Sunflower of Yorkshire” was breath-taking. His coaching of the principals also resulted in the delivery of some outstanding vocal performances. I also congratulate the orchestra for its outstanding contribution to the delivery of the score.

There was a limited amount of choreography demanded by the book; however, the routines produced by dance captain, Lottie Franks, were of a very high standard. It was clear to me that Lottie had coached the company exceptionally well to achieve a slick delivery of the company wide numbers.

I can sum up the contribution of the creatives in one word: professional.

Cast

The principals were exceptionally strong. Each played their part to a professional standard and wowed the audience. With such a well-rounded and talented principal cast, I cannot really single out particular people for praise because everyone genuinely did an outstanding job.

However, I must recognise the talent, professionalism, and sheer courage of Lisa Simpson (Chris); Hannah Taylor (Annie); Hannah Hauser (Cora); Jayne Minter-Maryan (Jessie); Lottie Franks (Celia); and Ashleigh Standage (Ruth). These amazing ladies brought to life, in an extremely professional way, their characters. Collectively they gave the show the warmth, humour, and cheekiness required. Each also delivered strong vocals, excellent character work, and awesome acting. But above all else, these amazing actors were willing to flash the flesh in the name of theatre. The affection the audience showed these leading ladies during Act 2 Scene 8 reflected what an outstanding job they each did.

I will, because it is important to do so, also note the talent of the youths on stage, namely Noah Whitley (Danny), Joe Jeffrey (Tommo), and Zoe Mould (Jenny). The three did an outstanding job.

The ensemble, which was vast in number, were brilliant. Each member added greatly to the overall standard of the production and contributed to the professional standard the audience witnessed.  A special well done to the silent sisters – Miss Wilson ‘Tea’ (Rachel James) and Miss Wilson ‘Coffee’ (Christina Clucas) – who were also willing to flash a bare bottom in the name of the show.

As a company, the principals and ensemble, were professionals! The standing ovation given by the audience, including me, was truly earned!

Production

The production was delivered to a professional standard.

The set, which was supplied by Scenic Projects Ltd, was outstanding. Costumes, managed by Fiona Luck, and properties, taken care of by Robert and Faye Laurie, were excellent and added greatly to the overall visual offering.

The lighting design, produced by Catherine James, was perfect, and again of a professional standard. The sound was of a good standard, but I must note that at times I did struggle to hear dialogue and vocals over the orchestra. I would encourage the sound team, Aiden Jones A&M Productions, to investigate this issue.

The stage management was handled to a professional standard, with every transition being delivered with slick ease. Well done Emily Bull and Beth Hodgson. Excellent!

The programme and materials that marketed the show were also of a professional standard.

Closing Remarks

My warmest of congratulations for a professional production of ‘Calendar Girls’. I thank the front of house for the hospitality shown to patrons.

It really does give me no greater pleasure to be able to say the word ‘professional’ numerous times in a show report for a community theatre production: please keep up the outstanding work, NTMC.

I wish NMTC all the best for its upcoming projects and productions.

Luke Campbell

NODA Representative, East Midlands District 7