Linda Kelsey, Carolyn Pool, Laurel Armstrong, Charity Jones and Christina Baldwin in Calendar Girls. Photo by Petronella J Ytsma.
Calendar Girls, currently playing at the Park Square Theater, is a funny and endearing story of the camaraderie and support found in a WI* group in Yorkshire, and the financial success and personal challenges that come about after making a nude calendar. The story is a true one, and inspired the 2003 movie of the same name starring Julie Walters and Helen Mirren and was adapted as a play in 2008 by one of the movie's screenwriters. When Annie's husband John dies of Leukemia, she and her friend Chris come up with the idea to raise money for a new settee (couch) for the relatives room in the hospital where John was treated by making a calendar with nude photos instead of one filled with pastoral scenes. This plan for creating a different type of artistic calendar was inspired by something that John said, "The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire, every stage of growth has it's beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious." It doesn't take long for the the other women of the WI (*Women's Institute, which is a community based organization for women which has been around for over 100 years and is now the largest women's voluntary organization in the UK) to get involved, some more enthusiastic than others.
The chemistry between all of the actors, especially the women of the WI, brought warmth into the theater. It is rare when you see a play featuring so many women, especially women over a certain age. Add to that that the cast is filled with many Twin Cities favorite, made the ensemble even more of a joy to watch. Christina Baldwin and Charity Jones are Annie and Chris, the life long friends at the center of it all, and both bring comedy and heart to the story. Not pictured above is Shanan Custer whose comedic genius brings the show to a whole new level. From reluctantly agreeing to be part of a nude calendar, to confronting the her husbands mistress and everything in between (dressing up in an unrecognizable rabbit costume), Custer's Ruth brings a light heartedness to the show, and makes the audience crack up with laughter. The show's set is simplistic yet effective as the church hall and WI meeting point location that is central to the show. It's coloring also serves it well as a backdrop for projections that transport the location from inside a hall to outdoors in a field of sun flowers. All together from the performances to the design Calendar Girls is a fun play with both hearts and humor for the summer.
Cast of the Calendar Girls. Photo by Petronella J Ytsma.
Luckily for me the day didn't end there, as last Sunday there was the first Twin Cities Theater Blogger event with Park Square. Before the matinee there was a meet and greet with the bloggers, as a blogger myself I enjoyed meeting the other bloggers and folks associated with Park Square. And after the play there was a panel discussion with the actors lead by Carol from MN Theater Love and Becki from Compendium. Other than the fact that I think you should always stay for a post show talk back and often schedule my plays around performances that I know will have them, this one was particularly fun. There were some very good questions brought up about the play, the fact that it is unique in having so many roles for women, and about being a working actor in the Twin Cities. There were also discussions about blogs and the purpose we serve, which less of a critic and more as a way to get the word out about all the different work going on in the cities. If you want to know more about us check us out here.
And check out Calendar Girls and Park Square Theater until July 24.
Thank you to Park Square Theater for inviting me to this production.