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Review: WI groups: Get inspired by The Girls

They’re known for baking, knitting, Jerusalem and plum jam: But many of our readers will know that there’s a lot more to the Women’s Institute than meets the eye.

The Girls has hit the intimate Phoenix Theatre stage to tumultuous applause, as it follows the true story of a group of women in Yorkshire who decided to strip off to raise funds, a story that inspired the movie Calendar Girls. The musical is based on the film, and written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth.

When Annie’s husband John dies of cancer, her best friend Chris hits on a novel way to raise money to buy a replacement for the uncomfortable sofa in the hospital where he was treated. Gradually their friends at the WI are won round, and they just need to convince the wider organisation that it’s a good idea, before facing the deed itself: Stripping off and making a cheeky calendar.

The story is simple and light, but with a great deal of poignancy around John’s decline and the community’s grief. Add in the moral example being set (or not being set) to the girls’ hilarious teenagers, and some po-faced opposition from other members of the WI, and the stage is set for rip-roaring fun during the final scenes.

Catchy numbers, clever lyrics, British humour and the quintessential Yorkshire atmosphere add to a mix that is bound to be a huge hit with groups.