REVIEW: THE GIRLS (Phoenix Theatre) ★★★★

gary barlow the girls phoenix theatreTake That front man Gary Barlow gets the girls out at the theatre, in his new musical The Girls

In case you hadn’t heard, The Girls is the latest musical to be written by Take That veteran, Gary Barlow. The Girls opened this week at the Phoenix Theatre and there was quite a commotion when Gary arrived on the green carpet with fans screaming at him and vying for a selfie. I was there myself and showed the younger girls how to fangirl like a pro and get picture with the big guy.

The Girls is a musical based on the true story of a group of women from the Yorkshire Women’s Institute who made a calendar to raise money to buy a couch for a local hospital where their friend’s husband passed away. The same story was the subject of The Calendar Girls film back in 2003, which I hadn’t seen.

The story is quite simple: woman has an idea to make a calendar, convinces her friends through the medium of song to join in, the making of the calendar transpires to be a journey for each of the women and forces them to address personal battles they are fighting inside. SPOILER ALERT: they make the calendar, raise the money and buy the couch.

There is an undeniable warmth to the whole production. The set, the actors and the music perfectly capture the essence of the North; drawing you in and making you feel at home. The rolling hills of Yorkshire are painted onto cupboard doors and bunting is hanging from the ceiling – very post-war village hall-esque which is just on the right side of twee. The score is very pleasant and moving if not lacking a little pace. The standout vocal performance for me was West End Wilma Award Winner Claire Machin’s display of rasp and sass in a big high-energy number in Act 1.

Claire Moore plays a brilliant Chris, cheating her way through the baking competition with a jam sponge from M&S. It was a pleasure to see 2016 West End Wilma Award winner Claire Machin back on stage, who is fast becoming West End royalty. Michelle Doltrice, perhaps best known as TV’s Frank Spencer’s long-suffering wife Betty, gave a fine performance and it’s clear her 2016 Olivier Award nomination was well-deserved.

The Girls is a finely polished production, a high quality home-made British offering with a heart-warming true story and a fine score. And Gary Barlow fans will be sure to love it just as much as seasoned theatre-goers.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Matt Crockett

THE GIRLS has extended booking to 15 July 2017. Book tickets