Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the producing entity of the Granite Theatre’s fourth show of their 17th season is Tim Firth’s delightful comedy “Calendar Girls” which is the true and “revealing story” of a women’s group in England who decided to drop everything and raise money for a new settee for the hospital waiting room in honor of one’s husband who died of leukemia. It is based on Firth’s “Calendar Girls” movie from 2003.The news of the “alternative calendar” charitable venture spread like wildfire and ultimately raised over a million dollars.
The show isn’t about nudity, it is about friendship, female bonding and how the calendar changes the ladies in this women’s group while raising money for leukemia research. David Jepson does double duty in this show as the director as well as playing the role of Annie’s husband. He mines the layer of comic moments to win laughs for his talented cast as well as bringing the audience to tears at the appropriate moments, too. Especially poignant is his death scene in a wheelchair which leaves not a dry eye in the house.
Even though it is billed as a comedy there are many heartfelt moments mixed into the script. Annie is well played by Beth Jepson who gathers her girlfriends together for a good cause. Her scenes with her real life husband are heartfelt while her comic scenes with the girls lead to much laughter. The best scene is the calendar photo taking segment with each girl doing their signature pose. Annie and Chris’ friendship is tested when Chris starts to believe her own press. Annie is calm and loving while Chris is rebellious and dramatic. They have what the other needs in their relationship. Veronica Strickland shines as Chris and the dramatic confrontation scene with Annie is stunning. Veronica also has comic moments when she dresses suggestively at Christmas time and when she has sunflower petals for the other girls to wear.
The other gals do a great job in their roles, too. Michelle Mania plays Ruth who has a boyfriend that might not approve of the calendar. Her character is nice all the time, giving into what the others need. Her best moment occurs when she confronts the gal cheating with her beau and tells her to fuck off. It received one of the biggest laughs of the night. Christine Reynolds is terrific as Celia who must deal with her golf friends gossip and once rode a Harley at 16 with no top on. Celia puts big buns in front of her boobs in the photo pose. Darla Allen as Cora is a single mom who is a church organist and is worried what her daughter, Ruby might think. Cora’s father was a vicar and she had her daughter out of wedlock with a black American man which was taboo back in those days. Moe Noel is a hoot as Jessie, a retired teacher who resents the idea that older women are seen as doddering and uninterested in sex at their age. She has the best one liners in the show and has fabulous facial expressions that left the crowd in stitches. So for a fun filled comedy that will leave you laughing merrily all night long, be sure to catch “Calendar Girls” at the Granite Theatre before time runs out. Also bring a tissue or two for the heartwarming scenes, too.
CALENDAR GIRLS (30 June to 30 July)
Renaissance City Theatre Inc, Granite Theatre, 1 Granite St, Westerly, RI
1(401)596-2341 or www.granitetheatre.com