Four & five star reviews for Gary Barlow's The Girls musical

Four & five star reviews for Gary Barlow's The Girls musical

Updated On: May 1, 2018
By Nicki McIntyre
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    The Girls musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, based on the true story of the Calendar Girls, opened at London's Phoenix Theatre last night to four and five star reviews.

    The Girls received five stars from The Independent and The Stage, with four stars from the Guardian, Evening Standard and The Telegraph.

    With five stars, Paul Taylor of The Independent called The Girls "fresh and joyous... a new production that looks likely to stand the test of time."

    "The Girls opens with Gary Barlow's stirring anthem “Yorkshire”... and climaxes with the uproarious photo-shoot, hilariously well-timed and springs surprises that I won't spoil as the women whip their kit off behind those strategically placed buns et al."

    In praise of the cast he wrote, the "superb" Joanna Riding leads "a cracking female ensemble that includes Sophie-Louise Dann as Celia, who pouts with pride about her cosmetically enhanced cleavage and Michelle Dotrice, who is a delight as Jessie, the retired teacher whose watchword is never to do what age expects of you."

    He continued, "the lyrics have a wry observational wit that's ideally suited to tracing the permeable boundary in the show between quirky humour and heartbreak... The lovely melodies in Barlow’s beguiling score sometimes have a distinctively British sound as though he's been channelling the Parry of “Jerusalem” (which we hear in blasts) and mid-period Beatles. The 10-piece band, rich in brass instruments, does the score handsome justice."

    With his five star review, Mark Shenton of The Stage called The Girls "sheer joy... the biggest British musical hit since Billy Elliot."

    He continued; "[The Girls] stays faithful to its sense of time and place, but also deepens and amplifies the sense of intimate connection to the audience with a series of instantly catchy and moving songs... there's a hauntingly beautiful and radiantly lovely performance from Joanna Riding, who we see becoming widowed as her husband John (James Gaddas) succumbs to cancer, and she is gloriously partnered by Claire Moore, as her best friend Chris, a woman with an effervescent practicality."

    The Guardian's Michael Billington gave four stars calling it "A classy musical makeover. Take That’s Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have collaborated seamlessly on a delightful musical that is far superior to its predecessors on stage and screen."

    He also reserved praise for the ladies; "Joanna Riding as Annie offers a moving portrayal of marital loss. In contrast, Annie’s chum Chris, played by Claire Moore, is a cheery soul even if she is now anxious about her pubescent son. There’s good work from Debbie Chazen as the lonely Ruth, Claire Machin as a musical single mum, and Sophie-Louise Dann as a golf-club Delilah."

    With four stars, the Evening Standard's Fiona Mountford called it "a pleasant and poignant evening [and] overwhelmingly feel-good narrative." "Gary Barlow's new musical offers cosy camaraderie and cream buns... The story of those lightly risqué ladies from the Rylstone and District Women’s Institute and their charity fundraising nude calendar is the gift that keeps on giving."

    With another four stars, Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph asked; "Can a women-led British musical succeed in the West End? The Girls might just crack it." "Joanna Riding’s Annie breaks your heart twice – first with "Scarborough", in which she recalls holidaying with her late husband, then "Kilimanjaro", in which every moment now spent alone is likened to a mountain climb. And the WI should adopt "What Age Expects", a ditty of defiance at advancing infirmity and the patronising that goes with it – spiritedly sung by Michele Dotrice’s Jessie – as its anthem."

    In her three star review Ann Treneman of The Times wrote, The Girls "has a lot going for it. The music is catchy and soulful, the lyrics often hilarious and the story is pure gold."

    The Girls tickets are bookable now at the Phoenix Theatre.