Lewisville — The 2003 movie Calendar Girls was one of those indie British films that became a minor hit in America, and like The Full Monty and Once, begged for a stage version. The latter two were adapted, quite beautifully, into musicals. Calendar Girls was adapted as a play and became a hit in England.
It’s easy to see why. The unabashedly sentimental story is tailor-made for theater audiences who love the "feels," as the kids say, but it’s also a love letter to the power of women of a certain age (let’s just say older than 40). The play is adapted by Tim Firth from the screenplay that he co-wrote, and it’s making its regional premiere by Greater Lewisville Community Theatre. According to the theater producers, it’s the second production in the United States.
Expect this one to pop up in theaters all over the place. Well, the ones willing to do a play that requires its lead actresses to go topless. Don’t worry; the trick is to only see them from the back, although the throwing off of blouses and bras is required.
The story: Six women in a Yorkshire women’s group need to raise money for a memorial project after the beloved husband (played by Clayton Cunningham) of one of the members dies. They reluctantly go with a topless calendar—featuring them. But they’re past the age of people we normally see in topless calendars.
So what? Men who are in the second part of “middle age”—and beyond—are regularly lauded in the media for being distinguished and attractive (hello Paul Newman). But for some stupid reason, our culture thinks that women can’t be sexy or sexual after, what, 29? Or, they get the “…for her age” bit, which is what Helen Mirren (who was in the Calendar Girls movie) still hears. Heck, I even heard some morning infotainment reporters this week marveling over Britney Spears’ new bod. “She looks great for her age,” they said. People, she’s frickin’ 33.
The ladies in GLCT’s production, directed by Terri Hagar Scherer, have nothing to worry about. They are Cora (Delynda J. Moravec), Chris (Dena Dunn), Annie (Rose Anne Holman), Jessie (Kay Lamb), Celia (Sherry Etzel) and Ruth (Sherri Small), and all give charming and, when called for, feisty performances. The same goes for Cunningham and Craig Boleman as two of the husbands. They’re doing what good actors do. They develop characters, and they have fun doing it.
The biggest flaw is that it’s way too long, a combination of too much exposition in the script and some pacing issues with Scherer’s production. It clocks in at 2:45 (with one intermission), which is pushing it for a feelgood (nonmusical) comedy.
The scene when the calendar is being photographed is nicely done. Credit set designers Scherer and George Redford, costumer Nancy Birkett who whoever handled the props (not listed in the program)—that’s some well-placed fruit and vegetation.
There’s one more weekend left (and a performance was added), but it’s all reportedly sold out. Expect to see it appear on future seasons at area theaters—provided the theater is not in-the-round, which might present more challenges with the staging. Theater folk would figure it out, though.