The British Women’s Institute Movement was founded in Wales in 1915 to help women become more involved in various community activities. It quickly grew and spread throughout the United Kingdom including to Yorkshire where one chapter becomes the focus of the play Calendars Girls.
Sadly one of the WI lady’s much beloved husband is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. His eventual death comes after many visits to the community hospital, made even worse by offering only very uncomfortable seating for those waiting for the patient’s treatment. So when the dear husband passes away, the widow and her dear friend, both active members of the same Yorkshire WI chapter begin to consider a way to raise money to purchase a new sofa for the hospital. It is all very ordinary and proper in true British style, that is until the ladies of the Yorkshire WI decide on a rather wild idea for their fund raising.
Their Yorkshire WI group has used calendars to raise money for a few years, but the amount raised is minimal. They want something a little stronger and so after a great deal of sometimes contentious discussion the ladies of the Yorkshire WI decide the will produce and sell a calendar featuring several of the middle aged and beyond women of the Yorkshire WI in the nude. Not naked you understand because naked is very inappropriate whereas nude is actually art.
Now just think about this for a moment, a group of rather typical socially conservative Yorkshire WI women agree to produce and sell a calendar featuring themselves nude. Sounds outrageous right? It also happens to be a true story and one with an amazing and joyous ending. Quite unexpectedly the efforts generate huge global media attention and their calendar sales soar to unimaginable heights allowing them to make substantial contributions to the hospital for cancer research. And yes they also gave the hospital a new sofa.
The dynamics of this entire process is the core of Calendar Girls and it offers a generous level of theatrical entertainment. It is also the final show of the “Group Rep’s” 42nd season. So possibly at least in part in celebration of such an auspicious event they also actually produced their very own calendar featuring the cast of the show. It too is for sale but who knows just how far that effort will travel. Nevertheless it is one more element of fun.
The only problem I had with the show was the use of a Yorkshire accent by the cast members. totally understand the purpose and objective to make the presentation as authentic as possible. But in striving for total authenticity I found the sound a tad difficult at times. Still it is a charming story of great improbabilities with an unexpected very happy result, well presented and indeed worthy.
Calendar Girls is running now through October 9th 2016 at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91601. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets and reservations are available by calling 818-763-5990 or online at: www.thegrouprep.com.
NOTE: There is some partial nudity so you may want to leave the kids and hyper sensitive at home.
Photos by Drina Durazo
Top photo: Michele Bernath, Vesna Tolomanoska, Julie Davis, Cheryl Crosland, Lauran Peterson, Liz Anne Keigley
Ron Irwin was born in Chicago, Illinois a long time ago. He served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam, became a trial lawyer, TV and radio host, CEO of a public company and once held an Emmy. He never won an Emmy he just held one. Ron has written and published twelve books. His most important book to date is “Live, Die, Live Again” in which Ron tells of his early life and his unexpected and very temporary death in 2012. That experience dramatically refocused his life and within the pages of that book Ron reveals how he achieved a much healthier life, ridding himself of Diabetes, Cancer and Heart Failure. Now Ron enjoys writing about many things including health topics, travel [he has circled the globe several times], adventure, culinary experiences and the world of performing art. Ron’s motto is “Live better, live longer and live stronger because it feels great and annoys others.” Contact the author.