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Calendar Girls

a Comedy/Drama
by Tim Firth

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 4774

SHOWING : September 10, 2015 - October 04, 2015



This heartfelt comedy revolves around nine women in a local women’ s club who pose nude for an "alternative calendar" to raise funds for a local hospital. The venture is a huge success, but the women’ s friendship is put to the test under the strain of their new-found fame. Perfect for the "Steel Magnolias" fan who feels that "laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!

Director Heidi Cline
Liam Ty Autry
Elaine Maggie Birgel
John Robin Bloodworth
Jessie Alex Bond
Chris Courtenay Collins
Marie Joanna Daniel
Lawrence Ptah Garvin
Celia Meg Gillentine
Ruth Vicki Ellis Gray
Cora Bethany Irby
Brenda Hulse Kathy Kuczka
Annie Jennifer Levison
Rod Kevin Stillwell
Lady Cravenshire Stephanie Wilkinson
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Get Yourself a Gimmick
by playgoer
Friday, September 11, 2015
"Calendar Girls," adapted by Tim Firth from the fact-inspired movie, gives seven women meaty roles to play, and also provides additional roles for seven more actors. Add to this multiple settings and a lot of props and a lot of costumes (some of which might better be described as wearable props), and you end up with a large production. In Georgia Ensemble’s production, you also end up with a long one.

Stephanie Polhemus’ scenic design is dominated by a charmingly asymmetrical church hall, two portions of which revolve to suggest other settings and the other two portions of which separate to reveal a view of distant hills. Kevin Frazier’s lighting adds to the design appeal with colorful vistas above the hills and hall walls, and adjusts subtly as action moves about the stage.

Samantha P. McDaniel has provided multiple costumes for the ladies, elegant or dowdy as the occasion and the character suggest. Maclare Park has filled the stage with mounds of props, some of which don’t read particularly well from a distance (especially the first tray). An effect of letters from above results in a stray one falling well after the fact, as always seems to occur with similar effects using snow or leaves. This is a show where props and costumes can litter the floor, giving the actors plenty to keep up with.

The story takes place in Yorkshire, so all the actors have to put on accents, which aren’t always easy for American ears to decipher, particularly in the cacophony when multiple people are chattering onstage at once. Joanna Daniel has the best accent, of course (being British), but all the main characters do a pretty good job. Ty Autry, though, in the minor role of Liam, does an execrable job with his accent. Of the minor characters, Stephanie M. Wilkinson (as Lady Cravenshire) and Maggie Birgel (as Elaine, the make-up girl) impress the most, with nice accents and performances.

Of the seven main characters, six of them have to remove their clothes. Joanna Daniel doesn’t, but she does reveal a good portion of thigh in a delightful comic bit in the second act. Courtenay Collins plays Chris, the ringleader of the ladies, and gets to show the most. The others show various amounts of nudity (not nakedness!) with strategically placed items or back-to-the-audience poses.

The nudity may be the draw of the show, but the script goes to great lengths to flesh out the stories of the six main ladies. Annie (Jennifer Levison) loses her husband to cancer, triggering the ladies’ decision to create a fund-raising calendar. The elegant Celia (Meg Gillentine) has a golf-obsessed husband, while mousy Ruth (Vicki Ellis Gray) has a straying husband. Cora (Bethany Irby) has an estranged daughter, and Jessie (Alex Bond) is facing the challenges of aging (expressed in a wonderful monologue in the first act). The first act introduces us to the ladies and leads up to the photograph shoot for the calendar. The second act shows the after-effects of the photograph shoot, adding in monologues for all the ladies whose stories were given short shrift in the first act.

Book-ending tai chi segments open and close the show, and go on a little too long. Director Heidi Cline McKerley has given the ladies a lot to do, including musical numbers generally led by the splendid piano and vocal stylings of Bethany Irby. It adds a little to the texture of the show, but adds a lot to the running time. The show seems overstuffed. Perhaps some trimming will occur following previews, but the script has so much going on that a single focus isn’t possible. "Calendar Girls" has a lot of enjoyable moments, but it doesn’t add up to a thoroughly engrossing evening of entertainment. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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