• Laurel Contributor

Calendar Girls

by Luke Osteen

The Calendar Girls (Back Row, Left to Right): Marsha Shmalo, Robin Phillips, Lynleigh McLean, Sue Feldkamp, Vangie Rich, Kaye McHan, Pam Sharpe with Director Ricky Siegel

There’s friskiness, laughter, and a surprising amount of tenderness in the Highlands-Cashiers Players’ production of “Calendar Girls,” May 23 through June 2.

What happens when a covey of civic-minded English women of a certain age decide that they’ll raise funds for charity by posing nearly undressed for a calendar?

You get the supremely satisfying “Calendar Girls,” Highlands-Cashiers Players’ latest comedy-drama at the Highlands Performing Arts Center, Thursday through Sunday, May 23-26; and Thursday through Sunday, May 30-June 2.

“Calendar Girls” was originally a 2003 British film based on a true story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women who posed semi-nude to produce a calendar to raise money for Leukemia research, winning permission from the usually staid and proper Women’s Institute (the WI) in 1999 after the death from cancer of a member’s husband.

When Annie’s husband John dies of leukemia, Annie (played by Jamie Thomas) and her long-time friend Chris (Lynleigh McLean) persuade other friends and fellow members of the WI to pose nude with them for an “alternative” calendar. The women are actually only semi-nude, posing with props in front them, such as a tray of fruit, a pan of fresh-baked buns, a long wool scarf being knitted by one of the women. They’re assisted by an amateur photographer with an artistic flair who arranges the tasteful and flattering camera shots.

HCP’s production is joyous and punctuated with genuine laughter, yet there are surprising moments of tenderness as the women grapple with the question of whether they, women of a certain age and certain body types, can wear the mantle of “pin-up girls.” And the entire story is predicated upon the death of a beloved husband who proved an inspiration for the whole enterprise.

The HCP box office, (828) 526-8084, will open at Highlands Performing Arts Center on Thursday and Friday, May 16 and 17, for season subscribers; and for others, beginning Saturday, May 19, continuing through the run of the play, from 10:00 A.M. until 4:00 P.M. and at 1:45 P.M. before the 2:30 P.M. matinees, Sundays May 26 and June 2. Tickets are priced at $23.50 and are also available at highlandscashierplayers.org.

Ricky Siegel directs this production. Cast and production staff come from several communities: Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin, and Rabun Gap.

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