by Deanna Walz
Calendar Girls is about bravery. The play is currently running at the Lofte Theatre in Manley, NE.
This was a difficult show to pull off and the Born-in-a-Barn Players pulled it off with joy and skill.
The play is based on the 2003 movie of the same name, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. In England, Women’s Institute (WI) groups meet regularly to educate and grow through traditional pursuits (knitting, baking, etc.) When the husband of one of the women contracts cancer, the team rallies together to help her raise money for a new couch for the waiting room at the hospital. The method of their fundraising is a unique one; they decide to produce a nude calendar featuring themselves in all of their glorious middle aged beauty.
This is where the bravery part comes in. The Born-in-a-Barn Players fully embrace the story and tackle the nudity scenes with confidence, skill, and unabashed joy. One of the themes of the play is appreciating the beauty of women who are often unseen as they age. Through their grace and charm, these actresses remind the audience of how alluring and beautiful we all are regardless of age.
Director Kevin Colbert did a fantastic job keeping the focus of the show on the camaraderie between the characters. The love and friendship these women have for one another is palpable, and the audience finds itself wanting to join the WI group and hear lectures on broccoli and bridges. The staging, blocking and timing add a level of sophistication not often seen on community stages, and these nuances added to the charm of the production.
Stand out performances come from Beth Joy Haneline who plays the plucky Jessie, the eldest of the group and from Therese Rennels who plays Annie, the bereaved widow. Ms. Haneline had the audience rolling with her adorable one-liners and Ms. Rennels’ honesty and authenticity made the scenes with both her husband and her best friend, Chris (played with charm by the talented Wendy Allen) feel real and emotional. A few tears were definitely shed when the team said goodby to Annie’s husband in a very moving scene.
But more than anything Calendar Girls is a comedy. The last half of the first act had the audience rolling in laughter and is one of the funniest pieces of comedy I have seen in a long time.
Calendar Girls is the perfect show for a Girls Night Out. The Lofte Theater is a gorgeous venue that deserves more attention. Grab a glass of wine and a popcorn at the concession stand and enjoy a great night of theatre in Manley, NE.
If you go: Calendar Girls is being performed at the Lofte Theatre at 15841 Manley Road, in Manley, NE. Remaining performances are April 6, 11, 12, and 13 at 7:00 pm and April 7 and 14 at 2:00 pm. Tickets are available online and at the box office.
Deanna Walz is a marketer and event specialist for the Lincoln Journal Star. She has participated in productions for many theatre companies in Lincoln both on and off stage. She believes in the power of community theatre for the audience, the production team, and for our community as a whole. Sharing stories creates stronger communities.
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