Harbourfront Players on stage to benefit Prince County Hospital
by Peggy Miles
A most revealing performance graces the stage at the Harbourfront Theatre as the Harbourfront Players presents Calendar Girls.
Made popular by the 2003 movie and based on a true story, Calendar Girls chronicles the lives of a group of middle aged English women who pose nude for their annual Women’s Institute fundraising calendar. The story explores themes of friendship, loss and ageing.
Stage productions such as this are under licensing rights, and to the good fortune of audiences everywhere, amateur productions of Calendar Girls are permitted to be staged during this limited timeframe.
Sherri-Lee Darrach is credited as the original director of the local production; however, after Darrach moved on to other projects, actress and theatre veteran Marlane O’Brien took over that role. O’Brien says that the cast of local ladies (and a handful of gentlemen) are an “amazing group” of performers. In addition to dealing with the nitty gritty tasks of lighting, sound and blocking (the positioning of actors on stage), she challenges each performer to bring out the best in herself.
Local theatre enthusiasts will recognize many of the individuals involved in this community theatre production. Sandra Sheridan portrays lead character “Chris,” whose character is the driving force behind the fundraising endeavour. She is joined by Sue Urquhart who plays grieving widow “Annie”—it is in memory of Annie’s husband that the calendar’s philanthropic efforts are being dedicated. They recruit a number of women to join them in posing for the calendar including single mother and organist “Cora” played by Nancy Smythe, retired teacher “Jessie” portrayed by Catherine Ann, “Celia” played by Sara McCarthy, and housewife “Ruth” represented by Stephanie Betts. Shelley Tamtom is WI Chairwoman and social climber “Marie.” Steven MacDougall channels “Lawrence” the young photographer who shoots the calendar photos, Chris’ husband “Rod” is Thane Clark and Annie’s husband “John” is Nils Ling. Joady Walton supports as stage manager.
Director O’Brien expresses that the production is a true celebration of women, and reminds us that good things can come from bad. A flower theme runs throughout the play and connects to the process of ageing—sharing both as having beauty, the last stage of life being the loveliest.
The experienced theatre leader indicates that the production is “well written with depth, heart and laughter.” Women of every season are represented, O’Brien says, “I think that’s why Calendar Girls is so delicious on so many levels. The audience will go on quite a wonderful journey.”
And as to the question on everyone’s mind: there is no ‘real’ nudity, rather some strategically placed props. There’s a teensy bit of salty language if that’s a consideration for you as an audience member.
Organizers are providing a portion of the proceeds to the Prince County Hospital Foundation.