The Girls, Phoenix Theatre, London

Yesterday was a rather exciting day for me. Not just because I was able to spend a significant amount of time with one of my favourite people, but because I was able to attend an evening performance of The Girls.  The show is still very new and has been incredibly fortunate to start its London run within one of West End’s smaller, more elegant theatres.  This theatre is called The Phoenix Theatre by the way! Nearly forgot to name it there! To those of you who have seen a show there: can you really blame me? It’s beautifully distracting! It’s been home to some fantastic shows in the recent past such as Once the Musical and Blood Brothers, as well as some less than fantastic shows (Bend it Like Beckham I’m looking at you). It’s seen some amazing performers and musicians in its lifetime, its seen war and dysfunction and it’s seen incredible successes!

As I’m sure you’ve probably noticed by now, The Phoenix is my absolute favourite theatre. Small but not tiny, beautiful but not cocky about it, always has THE NICEST staff my goodness so nice and very well located just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus to make it a significantly calmer experience (unless you’re stuck in a mob of middle aged women trying to jump Ronan Keating as he leaves via the stage door but I won’t go into that horror right now). What’s not to love here?! So anyway imagine my excitement when my friend (who happens to be one of the musicians in The Girls *smug*) takes me in through the stage door with him to drop his instrument off and takes the time to show me around. Yeah. Exciting stuff! I had no idea I was going back there when the day started and was already incredibly excited to see the show having heard only good things, so naturally it was the icing on the cake for me!

So how about I stop gushing about the theatre itself and move on to the reason you’re probably here?

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Beautiful, isn’t it? Do you see what I mean?

Anyway. Having seen where the magic happens backstage, I was more than ready to see the magic happen on stage once I’d taken my seat. MORE THAN READY. So let me start from the beginning. That’s probably a good idea, right? Right. I promise not to throw any ‘big spoilers’ into the mix here so if that’s what you’re after, you’ll have to ask me to be a little more specific which I am more than willing to do.

So first of all I walk up to the theatre to be greeted by a super friendly member of staff who kindly allows me in (even though I’m pretty early and wasn’t expecting to be able to head up to the bar just yet) and informs me that I am more than welcome to go and sit upstairs until the door to the grand circle is open which wouldn’t be until much later. Now I’ve only ever sat in the stalls in this theatre so I was eager to explore and was not disappointed. Those sunflowers you see there in the windows? Those are the part of the dress circle bar! Yeah, yeah I know. You don’t care. Just get on with it, Deanna. Moving on! I encounter more staff members and have noticed by this point that they all have these little blue badges representing The Girls.

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(I was lucky enough to get one back stage earlier in the day. Shhh!)

How cute are they?! And it doesn’t even stop there. Some of the girls have small sunflowers elsewhere whether it be jewellery or little hair clips. Everything builds you up to the moment those lights go down and its little things like this that make the difference to me. I’m big on details and efforts.

So I finally get up to the grand circle and take my seat. Let’s talk about that for a second. Now, considering the amount of theatre I attend I am incredibly low on funds. Probably because of the amount of theatre I attend to be honest, it’s a vicious cycle but it’s a living and I stand by my choices! Anyway, I paid £25 for my seat, J-15 which is dead centre, right on the back row of the grand circle as far away as I could possibly get so I wasn’t exactly expecting miracles. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that actually? The view was still absolutely fantastic! Yes so I had maybe 2 feet restricted from view right along the front of the stage but a simple lean forward solved that problem and honestly let’s face it, not a lot ever goes on that near the edge of the stage anyway. No drama!

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I took a photo during the interval of the view (isn’t the theatre beautiful?! *gushes some more*) while the safety curtain was down just to show you how high up I was considering the view was better than expected. I would love to show you what the set itself looks like, but they ask very politely for no photographs and so theatre etiquette dictates you respect this which I shall do. I can tell you though, that it is very simplistic and very pretty.  It has been hand built entirely out of cupboards! Big ones, little ones, some that open, some that don’t and each as rustic looking as the next. This is my absolute favourite part of the entire production which I will explain later. These cupboards are constructed in a way that allows the movement of the set to change the scene with minimal effort and interruption. Sometimes you’re in the W.I. meeting area, sometimes you’re in a garden or hospital or flower shop or school, and sometimes you’re on the Yorkshire Dales! Even the props are clear but simple to compliment the base of the stage set.

While waiting for the show to start, the safety curtain is up and the stage is fully visible. The lighting is used to set the mood in strong colours of blue and pink (was it pink? My memory is a little confused) and the sound is set to have us believe we are outside with birds singing and chirping it’s lovely. Then it’s time! The lights dim, the crowd quietens and the first of the performers enter view. From the moment the first song begins I know I’m already lost to the music. Usually I like to check out the soundtrack before I check out the show itself because I’m an insufferable know it all who likes to quietly sing along, it helps me focus on the acting because I’m already clear on the lyrics and the sound. However, it wasn’t possible to do this here so each element was equally as new as the next. I do happen to love the film Calendar Girls on which this is based so I am fully aware of their story and endeavours which meant I could focus on more than just the story and it’s times like this I notice the details! Got to love the details! But you really don’t need to know anything about it before you get there so if you were worrying about that, don’t. Trust me. It’s very self-explanatory. You’re whisked instantly away into the heart of the story and OH BOY does it have heart. It’s not a blockbuster of a show like Wicked or Les Misérables, but the heart of it is clear, emotional and clever. Think Billy Elliot. Have you seen Billy? Did it make you tear up? Did it make you cry? Yeah well this one will crush you entirely. Be warned. Though it’s worth it. I feel it’s important to note I didn’t cry, however. Ok fine, I cried once. Ok fine THREE TIMES. Happy now? Good. So am I. Moving on.

It’s apparent straight away that this show is maturely immature. It screams naughtiness and cheekiness. Tim Firth and Gary Barlow did very good with the lyrics and music here to tell the story of something incredibly sad in such a positive way by allowing the audience to see the naughty side of fun and love and acceptance. Those of us watching were laughing in all the right places, sniffling where appropriate and sharing tissues with each other when needed. Honestly that last part is totally true I kid you not, it brought complete strangers together through something as simple as asking someone if they’d like a tissue. It’s a real community centred production. Can you tell how much I enjoyed it yet? I should hope so. Because I did you know, and I’m not the easiest person to please, trust me. So anyway, long story short with as few details as possible, it’s about a group of friends all members of the W.I. who together live through each other’s problems whether it be cancer or relationship trouble with husbands or children or even each other. If you’re a fan of the film, you’ll understand when I say they’re definitely going to need considerably bigger buns. The actors and actresses are incredibly well directed, super talented and I’m sorry, men, but the women steal the show from you and rightly so! They take the term ‘tasteful nudes’ and use their confidence to do them. If you have a problem with nudity then you may want to give this a miss, though to be honest it isn’t a massive amount it’s just more than you would be used to in West End shows. Those actresses are very brave I swear. I won’t even get my legs out let alone my bottom or boobies and whether it’s easy for them or not to do so, they make it look effortless with a cheeky grin and flourish. Hats off to them! Just my hat. The rest of my clothing shall remain firmly upon my person, thank you very much.

The roles are, in my opinion, perfectly cast. Excellent job done in casting, especially with Cora and Ruth! The actors and actresses shine on the stage because they are catapulted into the forefront of the production. Remember when I said I’d tell you why the set was my favourite part? Well here is where I tell you just why that is. Buckle up because this gets wild! Well no, it doesn’t, but it does get a little gushy. I like to gush. Do you? I do. So here goes.

So as I touched upon before, the stage is set simply and concisely which allows the sound and lighting departments to have a subtle but big part to play throughout in order to help us be carried from scene to scene fluidly. Bright lights for indoor settings, spot lights for night scenes and my personal favourite, green lights for the Dales. Did I mention the set can also be climbed? Probably not, but it has parts in which the cast are able to climb when they’re off to plant sunflowers and even when the first wonderful character whips her top off to hide behind a trowel! I laughed a lot at this point it’s undeniably a real, funny and important moment. While all of this contributes to my reasoning behind the set being my favourite part, it is important to note that it is not the main reason for this opinion I hold. My favourite thing about theatre, especially musical theatre is, well, the music! I’ve grown up singing and playing instruments so this aspect of theatre is very important to me and do you know what? The Girls has FANTASTIC music, written by FANTASTIC writers and is played by FANTASTIC musicians who are led by an incredibly talented musical director. No matter what, the music in this show would always speak to the audience but because the set is so simple and comfortably used, it allows the music to really take flight and punch me rather lovingly in the face. There isn’t much I love more than being able to fully submerge into the moment of the show and everything about The Girls lures me in, captivates me, ruffles my hair, gives me a lovely big hug and invites me to stay a while. Utterly charming. It’s like popping round your Nana’s for a cup of tea while she tells you a story about her friends and offers you freshly baked cookies. It’s comfortably familiar and entirely addictive.

Please, please, PLEASE consider giving it a watch if you haven’t already.  If you have, drop me a comment or message and let me know what you think! Same goes if you have a question about The Girls, or any show to be honest. If I can answer and help you out, I most certainly will.

Thank you for visiting, thank you for your time, I hope you enjoyed your stay and please know you’re welcome back any time!

Deanna 🙂

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