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The “Calendar Girls” movie by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth is based on reallife, mature women who undress to make a calendar for charity. That raises the question if Starlight Dinner Theatre’s “Calendar Girls” cast actually disrobes on stage inside Waverly East Intermediate School’s cafeteria. I say with certainty that there is no nakedness in the play’s production.
There are moments of nudity though.
The distinction is a key argument used by Chris — played like a seasoned pro by Tanya Canaday Burnham — to convince others to participate. Laura Davis Stebbins is an enchanting Annie, the first of a Yorkshire, England women’s church group to agree to pose with little more than flowers, a teakettle, or sweet rolls for a wardrobe.
Gloria Vivalda is convincing as former schoolteacher Jessie and Candace Myers is effective in the role of the meek yet resilient Cora. Charlotte Ruppert delights as the once wild child, Cella, who doesn’t need much persuasion to return to her roots. Susan DeRosa is comical as the hardest to convince, Ruth.
Marie is the snobbish church official who is the half dozen’s nemesis. Jane Zussman plays the role with gusto and an adorable wickedness. Bill Henson is a charismatic John and Bruce Bennett is a charming Rod. Greg Pratt is amusing as photographer Lawrence.
Characters in “Calendar Girls” become more distinctive over the course of the 145-minute play. In Act I, they become more humorous, genial and bold. In Act II, the plot shifts from a built-up collegial glee into melancholy and bothersome personal developments.
The applause from Saturday’s sold-out show was wild at the end of act one and respectfully hearty at the play’s end. It was the only time I remembered a Starlight show that did not receive a full house, standing ovation.
The mood changes in “Calendar Girls” aren’t the fault of the energetic cast, nor is it due to the direction by Kristine Thatcher. Numerous costumes by Linda Granger and Julie Dobbs are fancy and impressive. Set builder Bob Gehris and designer Jim Lorenz did a quality job on the fine backdrop.
Sure, there are wavering English accents, some long pauses between scenes, samplings of sappy songs and stepped-on lines. But the reason the Starlight production loses momentum is because of the script.
That said, the production’s shocking moments, memorable characters and classy embellishments are enough to make “Calendar Girls” worthwhile.
“Calendar Girls” $15 regular, $36 with dinner
Friday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m. Waverly East Intermediate School 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing www.starlightdinnertheatre.com (517) 243-6040