Banned in Boston, cancelled in Atlanta, and flourishing in Tacoma, Calendar Girls is a hit. A group of middle-aged British women go from Tai-Chi to touching hearts. We saw very few empty seats on the Sunday matinée. From the look on the face of Managing Artistic Director Chris Serface, the previous two performances and subsequent ticket sales must be rewarding.
In the earlier days of vaudeville and Broadway stage shows, “banned in Boston” was almost a sure-fire headline for a successful show. The run of this nice little play, in good taste, was canceled in Atlanta as being inappropriate. Go figure.
Here is the basic plot: When Annie’s husband John dies of leukemia, she and best friend Chris resolve to raise money for a new bench on his sunflower hill. They manage to persuade four fellow Women’s Institute (WI) members to pose nude with them for an “alternative” calendar as a fundraiser, with a little help from hospital porter and amateur photographer Lawrence. The news of the women’s charitable venture spreads like wildfire, and hordes of press soon descend on the small village of Knapeley in the Yorkshire Dales. The calendar is a success, but Chris and Annie’s friendship is put to the test under the strain of their new-found fame.
English accents although providing a flavor of reality, in truth make a production hard to hear and understand for many, especially an older audience. The staging seemed to be one line-up after another and felt uncomfortable. Even if there are just two people on stage, standing more than six feet apart seemed just a little bit awkward. The murky lighting was perhaps done to hide any possibility of actually seeing any nudity. With most the action taking place deep into the stage this is only a remote problem.
Ruth (Dawn Brazel) was hilarious as she tried to follow the precise and slow-motion movements of Tai-Chi as led by Chris (Shannon Mahan). Well done and directed. Dawn has been a junior high music teacher, a rock and roll singer, and a cruise ship entertainer. She has appeared in productions at the Village Theater, Arts West, Renton Civic, and Theatre Schmeater. Peg and I love Seattle’s off-the-wall Theatre Schmeater. Shannon has performed on Vashon Island (a great place for entertainment) and appeared as Becky in Becky’s New Car, which we saw at Act and loved.
The audience enjoyed the badminton battle between Ruth and Marie (Jen Aylsworth) with the shuttlecock as a weapon. We got a kick out of Jen in The Foreigner last season, but missed her in A Little Night Music way back in 1997. A shame, we would have loved her.
My favorite moments were the singing. I would have relished hearing a complete version of Cora (Karen Christensen) singing “Stormy Weather.” Karen is the TLT office manager and director of the Murder Mysteries.
The cast appeared to be having a ball. From overheard comments at intermission, I know the audience really enjoyed the production. Calendar Girls will run through Sunday, September 29, 2019. Friday and Saturday showings are at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Calendar Girls is recommended for ages 12 and up. For tickets, call the box office at 253-272-2281 or visit the website for more information – tacomalittletheatre.com