As I walked back to the car following a wonderful night, as always, at Bristol Hippodrome I thought this show could really be summed up in just two words - Girl Power! 

Calendar Girls - The Musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is the award-winning production based on the true story of Yorkshire's own calendar girls - a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary.
The cast of Calendar Girls - The Musical at Bristol HippodromeThe casting was a treat in itself, starring many familiar faces: Hollyoaks' Sarah Jane Buckley as Annie, Casualty's Sue Devaney as Cora, Loose Women's Lisa Maxwell as Celia and Birds of a Feather's Lesley Jospeh as Jessie. There was a real believability in the bond between these women and the others who formed the rest of the Knapley Women's Institue (WI). It felt like a real, life-long friendship.

From the moment I walked through the doors into the auditorium there was a real buzz about the place. A largely female audience, there were groups of teenage girls, mothers and daughters and, rather fittingly, lots of groups of women clearly from their local WI dressed in matching headbands or sunflower brooches. 

Let's be clear, this musical is not just the film or play with a few added songs. It's a real masterclass in how songs can add extra meaning to a scene, a way for the character to express their inner most thoughts and feelings that just wouldn't come across in the same way if spoken. This version also had the added bonus of a new storyline about the young romance between teens Jenny and Danny. Plus best friend Tommo, played by the charasmatic Tyler Dobbs, brought many of the laughs. 

In some ways, the show was a bonding experience between those in the audience and those onstage. We all felt the loss and heartbreak after the death of local farmer John 'Clarkey' Clarke, played lovingly by Phil Corbitt. We then all rode the rollercoaster of emotions as the WI ladies got onboard with Chris' idea of a tasteful nude calendar to raise money for the local hospital.  

A night full of self love and body positivity, by the end when it came to the nude photoshoot - with appropriately placed iced buns and tea pots - the audience were wooping and cheering at every drop of the dressing gown by each cast member. It truly was one of the most empowering endings to a show I've ever seen.

The standing ovation was much deserved, a celebration of friendship, love, tradition (and in part breaking it) and, of course, Yorkshire - top marks to Robert Jones, who created a beautiful backdrop to the story.   

Calendar Girls - The Musical runs until Saturday 20th of July. Tickets are still available to some performances and can be bought from here

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Calendar Girls - The Musical at Bristol Hippodrome
Musicals
Calendar Girls - The Musical at Bristol Hippodrome

Calendar Girls The Musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is the award-winning production based on the true story of the calendar girls - a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary.

The Bristol Hippodrome
Theatre
Bristol Hippodrome theatre inside

One of the country's top provincial theatres, which proudly continues to stage major West End and Broadway productions.