The Girls, The Lowry, Jan 2016

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Based on the story of the Rylstone & District branch of the Women’s Institute and their innovative way to raise funds, writer Tim Firth and long-time pal Gary Barlow have worked their magic and created a musical about those much loved WI ground breakers simply titled ‘The Girls’.

Most will be familiar with the story having seen either the smash hit film or much loved stage play, (both written by Firth). Yorkshire lass Annie, played by the fantastic Joanna Riding, loses her beloved husband John (James Gaddas) to cancer and is determined with the help of her WI family to do something special in his memory, the decision is made to raise funds to purchase a new couch for the relatives room in the hospital where John was treated and soon the seed for the ‘alternative’ calendar is planted.

Girls is an absolute joy from start to finish, tender moments where tears threaten are immediately followed by laugh out loud scenes that remind us in life we can’t have the highs without the lows.

As the idea of the nude calendar edges closer to a reality we see each of our ladies wrestle with their own issues and struggles in life, offering up even more opportunity to empathise with these wonderful women as we soon realise we all face similar battles in life.

Firth and Barlow’s pairing is a perfect one, the script is witty and warm with accompanying songs that flow seamlessly as an extension of the script. The melodies are wonderful and the lyrics clever and catchy, toe tapping amongst the audience is almost immediate.

Designer Robert Jones’ set is striking, green cupboards and cabinets and stacked on top of each other to create various levels, the centre of which is a hill that beautifully represents the rolling hills of Yorkshire.

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The cast as a whole are fantastic, each and every character is portrayed with a deep affection, Girls works so well due to the love the cast clearly have for the story, each person on stage gives their absolute all. Special mention goes to Joanna Riding playing Annie and Claire Moore who takes on the role of Annie’s best mate Chris. Their chemistry is wonderful and their relationship as best friends through thick and thin is truly heart-warming. The icing on the cake of this delightful production is of course the photoshoot scene; it is absolutely hilarious and has the audience crying with laughter.

Girls is as charming as it is moving, as fun as it is touching and truly deserving of the standing ovation it received. I’ve no doubt Mr Firth and Mr Barlow have an absolute smash hit on their hands which will delight audiences for many years to come.

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