Review: The Girls – Phoenix Theatre, London

Hubby and I love going to the theatre but we usually only get to go to local theatres. However we were invited to see The Girls at the Phoenix Theatre in London and we couldn’t wait for a trip to the West End.

The Girls is based on the true story of The Calendar Girls which you have probably heard of. It’s about a group of Women’s Institute members who spend their lives gardening, cooking, baking and sewing – as well as looking after their homes and families. It centres around a charity fundraiser that grows bigger than any of them could ever have imagined.

Written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth it is most definitely a musical and I couldn’t wait to see how the iconic story of a group of Yorkshire ladies translated to the stage. When we arrived the whole audience seemed to be older people – lots of older women and occasionally their husbands but then I saw younger couples and younger groups of friends and realised – despite the story being mainly about older women with teenage children – it was a story that anyone could enjoy. I couldn’t wait for it to start.

The Girls is fairly long – 2hrs 45 minutes – with a fifteen minute interval but it doesn’t feel at any point like it’s dragging or going on for too long. The length, and the story, are perfect. The first act introduces you to the characters, their friendships, relationships and their individual family situations. There are single parents, people who have been happily married for years and people who are less happily married. The main group of women couldn’t be any different, all from different backgrounds and all with their own issues but they have two things in common – the Women’s Institute and their friendship.

The first act ended with such emotion and I could have cried for hours. By that point we were living the story with the characters and we were right there with them. The songs helped illustrate the story so well with such poignancy and you felt the characters’ happiness and love just as much as you felt their heartache and grief.

I don’t want to give any spoilers of the story for anyone who may not be familiar with Calendar Girls. But, throughout the second act we laughed, we sang along, we cried and we smiled so much. The Girls took us through our whole range of emotions – and back again. It was so brilliantly acted, like watching real lives unfold on stage.

Towards the end of the show the main women had nude parts to play and I was slightly apprehensive of seeing a bunch of women, old enough to be my mother, naked on stage. But, that whole part of the show was brilliantly put together. It was all true to the story, artistically done and just so funny. It was very much a part of the story and it was all done with humour and grace. Instead of the audience cringing we were laughing and applauding – I have no doubt that the cast made the original Calendar Girls proud.

When the final song came to an end the audience gave a standing ovation. We all clapped like we had never clapped before and as the original Calendar Girls stepped from our row of seats and onto the stage to dance with the cast it couldn’t have been more fitting. The story of the Calendar Girls is nearly twenty years old and yet The Girls gives the story a new lease of life, a timeless show that will be appreciated across the generations.

The Girls has fantastic songs, a great true story and a cast that really did the characters justice. The whole show was flawless from start to finish and we left the theatre feeling so happy and uplifted. Hubby even said that he had never enjoyed a theatre show as much as he had enjoyed The Girls – and that’s really saying something.

I was singing about sunflowers the whole way home on the train and I know that The Girls will be a show that stays with me forever. It was beautiful to watch but it also had an underlying message that anyone can learn from – the great thing about sunflowers is that no matter how dark a day they can always turn to find the light.

If there is one theatre show you go and see this year make it The Girls. It will appeal to any gender, any age and any personality. It will have you laughing and crying in equal measure and you will love it just as much as we did. A fantastic show that I am just so glad we got to see.

Disclosure: We were invited to the above show for the purpose of this review however all opinions are my own.

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