Calendar Girls by KAMT
Calendar Girls – the musical is an adaption, by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, of a true story previously told in both the form of a film and a play about a group of ladies in the Women’s Institute. This unlikely group decided to raise money for a new sofa for the local hospital in memory of one of their husbands by selling a new calendar. Not unusual you might think until you realise they were making a naked calendar.
The show follows this group of ladies and their families through the last days of John Clarke and on though the decision to make the calendar until it’s successful release. Whilst the underlying story is one containing sadness and love there is also some well needed comedy relief on the way through.
The cast of this amateur production by the Kent Academy of Musical Theatre were of mix of actors with and without performance training and history although all worked well and felt natural together onstage. With as much history around the theatre as I do you can sometimes become a little immune to emotions on stage however the combined performances of Trevor Cleaves (John Clarke), Lindsey Simpson (Annie Clarke) and Fiona Lussier-Foy (Annie’s best friend Chris) was so strongly portrayed even I felt it, if there had been many more tears in the audience as John ascended his way out of the show I may have needed a boat to exit the auditorium. The show has three clear leads however there is no feeling of the other characters being left in the shadows with solo songs spread across the cast (I will come on to the music shortly). The part of Chris in the show is so well written (and performed)it does prevent the show from being a couple of hours of pure sadness however several of the lighter moments in the show came from the younger characters Danny (James Kennell), Jenny (Millie Judd) and Tommo (Jayden Whittall) bringing some well times humour into the story.
There is of course with this story the well-known moment in the show where the Ladies of the WI disrobe behind strategically placed cakes and flowers etc posing for the calendar shots and special mention here needs to go not only to Lindsey (Annie) and Fiona (Chris) but also to Jenny Soto-Briley (Cora), Natasha Auge(Celia), Laura Bush(Ruth) and Vicky Mason (Jessie) for having the courage to do on stage something which many people couldn’t.
The set and scenery used for this production was quite minimalist but was well used (aside from some very slow scene changes) and at no point was I sat wishing for a bigger set to enhance it as it was just not needed.
The performances on the stage throughout Calendar Girls were strong throughout although sadly the production was let down (quite badly at times) by poor technical elements. The mics didn’t sound as if they had been properly set up on the desk and at several the mics were not even turned on when actors entered the stage until halfway through their first line. Another sad point for me was that the Keyboard at times was far too loud and overpowered a lot of the solo vocals in songs (making it hard to even hear the actors singing at points) and didn’t seem very well balanced with the drums. Looking up from my seat it was easy to see that lighting options in this theatre were limited but the use of the lights around the outside of the proscenium arch did light up the front of the auditorium and draw the eye away from the stage and I found myself during one solo number watching the “dancing” conductor located auditorium front left with the band rather than the actor on stage.
Overall, if you ignore the sound and lighting issues, the performance of the show on stage was a very good one with some very talented actors and I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to see future productions by KAMT.
Review by Andrew Parker
You can find out more about KAMT on their website.