Musical Blooms on Aylesbury Stage

Calendar Girls 2024

Naomi MacKay watched Calendar Girls at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre – which runs until Saturday 23 March.

Most of us are familiar with the true story behind Calendar Girls, but if you’ve never seen the film, which was released more than 20 years ago, or the stage show, it tells the inspiring story of Knapely Women’s Institute, who came up with the wild idea to produce a ‘nude’ calendar to raise funds for the hospital where one member’s husband was treated for cancer.

As the show began, we met the ladies of the WI as they arrived – mostly late – for their meeting. Testament to the cast – they really felt like a truly believable group of friends from the off – and a WI that anyone would love to be part of!

The cast includes some well-known names, from Maureen Nolan (The Nolans), as Ruth, who has a wayward husband and a liking for vodka, EastEnders’ Laurie Brett as Annie, whose husband dies of cancer, and Lyn Paul (The New Seekers), who plays Jessie, a former school teacher who is tired of being treated like a woman of a certain age.

It’s a bittersweet tale but there are plenty of laughs to be had, as well as some incredibly poignant moments.

The show is written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth – and it’s the sort of show where the lyrics are just as important – if not more so – than the actual music. But there’s one real showstopper – Sunflower – sung with fabulous power by Samantha Seager as Chris, who has wonderful energy on stage as the woman who only joined the WI to try to impress her mother-in-law, doesn’t bake, like jam or knit – but does come up with the amazing idea for the calendar.

Credit must also go to the set designers – the stage is dressed as the village hall, and sometimes turns into a hospital or other venue – but it’s the scenes shown through the large windows that cast light from early morning, to rainy and snow days, to sunsets – and at the end onto fields of flowers that create a wonderful atmosphere throughout.

Of course, whatever version of the show you see, there’s always the famous photo shoots, with carefully placed props – and, famously, a call for ‘considerably bigger buns!’ These were handled with just the right mix of humour and bravery to make for unforgettable scenes.

It’s a truly uplifting show – pardon the pun – and at the end of the night received the standing ovation it deserved.

Calendar Girls runs until Saturday 23 March. Tickets are available at: (bkg fee) or call 0844 871 7615 (Fees apply).