Calendar Girls Press Trip
Opening night - The most important night of a touring run. Not for the cast, crew and creatives of Calendar Girls the Musical who decided to take a little bit of a different route and invite an audience in the night before it opened at Leeds Grand Theatre to see the dress rehearsal.
Producers David Pugh and Daffyd Rogers and writers Tim Firth and Gary Barlow were all in attendance to gauge the audience’s reaction on the night. The audience included venue representatives from around the country, members of the press, invited guests and members from the charity Bloodwise - which to this day is still supported by the show in all its different forms. The original Calendar Girls were also in attendance to see how their legacy lives on. So there was a little bit of pressure to see how the classic story, film and well-loved play could transform into a new musical.
The story of Calendar Girls the Musical is inspired by the true story of a group of ladies, who decide to appear nude for a Women’s Institute calendar in order to raise funds to buy a settee for their local hospital, in memory of one of their husbands (To date they have raised almost £5million for Bloodwise). This musical comedy shows life in their Yorkshire village, how it all happened, the effect on husbands, sons and daughters, and how a group of ordinary ladies achieved something absolutely extraordinary.
To portray this story, this production has an all-star cast including Fern Britton, Anna-Jane Casey, Sara Crowe, Karen Dunbar, Ruth Madoc, Rebecca Storm and Denise Welch.
We spoke to writer, Tim Firth, before the dress rehearsal about how he feels the transition from play to musical came about and what he thinks it adds to the original story.
“This is truly a human story” says Tim Firth as to why he wanted to turn the play into a musical.
“When I wrote the play, unusually for me the characters started to have quite long solo speeches which worked for the play. And I remember reading these things and thinking I quite like this so I’m not going to cut them out - but they are unusual as they are like soliloquy but now I realise what they really were was songs. They were characters wanting to share. So then after a long time I agreed to think of this as a musical. There is a story that can born out of the play, the same way the play was born out of the film. The musical would take the end of the first act of the play and push it right back to the end of the musical which would allow us to talk about other things and share other moments. Also having the kids, seeing the ramifications on the husbands - all of which I hadn’t really had much time to do in the play. And then this other thing appeared, a really super English musical and that’s what made the Calendar Girls work and fabulous in the first place. And this musical was in the air and I felt that there was a story to tell that the play hadn’t been able to.”
Firth says that fans of the original West End production will not be disappointed: “There is an old saying that musicals aren’t written, they are rewritten. There are some changes but people who saw it in the West End will not come away and think oh my god it is a completely different show. A lot of it we loved and a lot of it we really got right first time around. Being able to go back to Gary and say these areas could be better or cleaner. The set designer and the lighting designer also had the chance to go away and do that and it means that it’s sort of created this new thing which is the best of what we had with a few….added extras.”
When asked what his favourite song from the musical was, Firth commented that “There is a song in the middle called Kilamanjaro and it’s not even really a song it’s a piece of music, like with all musicals it’s the right piece of music, with the right words at the right time and it goes right down the barrel and I think…we got that!”.
And he was right – this whole performance was met to a raucous standing ovation from the Leeds crowd. There were plenty of laughs (and teary eyes) throughout, which is no surprise considering the West End predecessor received plenty of 5 star reviews during its run, and we think this will achieve the same.
Don’t miss Calendar Girls The Musical when it comes to Mayflower Theatre from 8 – 19 January 2019.