‘Calendar Girls’ shows the true meaning of friendship at any age

If there’s one thing to learn from “Calendar Girls,” it’s that things do get better with age.

The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre opened their 92nd season with this heartwarming comedy, which ran Sept. 15 – Oct. 1. Based on the 2003 movie of the same name, the stage version puts its own relatable twist on the story.

The story centers on a group of friends in a chapter of a Women’s Institute in Yorkshire, England. These six women do almost everything together — from entering baking competitions to decorating their church for the holidays. As they go through these joys of life, they also endure the hardships together.

The driving force of the play is when Annie (Samantha Gauthier) loses her husband, John (Reed Bretz) to Leukemia. This scene in the play is one of the most pivotal, as the audience fully empathizes with Annie’s loss. The lights dim and the world seems to slow as the audience watches John slip through Annie’s fingers.

Despite that poignant moment, the rest of the play continues on a lighter, refreshing note. After John’s death, Annie’s best friend Chris (Stacy Dawe), comes up with a plan to commemorate John’s memory by raising money for Leukemia. Her idea? A pinup calendar featuring their group of friends from the Women’s Institute.

It was at that point that the play divulged into the completely unexpected. In the hysterical photoshoot scene, each woman strategically hid behind props and sets, giving the illusion that they were actually posing nude. Although this may seem like it would be an awkward scene, the audience was in hysterics. There was not a dry eye in the house — everyone was crying of laughter.

As the pinup calendar brings worldwide attention, the women learn to adjust to a different dynamic and navigate their relationship in a brand-new way. Despite the ups and downs that the characters went through during the play, this quirky group of friends always found their way back to each other.

What’s unique about this show is that it depicts a generation of women that are so often overlooked in arts and entertainment these days. It’s not a story about the cliché group of twenty-something women looking to take on the world together. But rather, it’s a story about women learning to navigate friendship after already experiencing a large part of life. These authentic stories of women over 40 are hardly ever told, which is what makes this story so real and special.

“Calendar Girls” just ended its run at the Grand Rapids Civic Theater on October 1. With all of the show’s praise and success, let’s hope that the Civic Theatre will continue bringing these rare, notable stories to life.