In the 25 years since the creation of the original calendar and the 20 years since the film was released, £6 million has been raised by Calendar Girls for Blood Cancer UK.
Calendar Girls the Musical premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2015, and now the brand-new production will return to make audiences ‘cry with laughter’ (Daily Mail) from Tue 7 to Sat 11 November 2023…..and there are more songs and bigger buns!
Written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, this incredible true story continues to bloom, with a reimagined book and new music. Bringing the story to life in 2023 are Tanya Franks (Eastenders), Maureen Nolan (The Nolans), Lyn Paul (The New Seekers), Amy Robbins (Coronation Street), Paula Tappenden (Theatre Star), Marti Webb (Tell Me on a Sunday) and Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyles War). Among them are five Mrs Johnstones from Bill Kenwright’s production of Willy Russell’s smash hit Blood Brothers.
Calendar Girls the Musical follows a group of extraordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute, prompted to create a nude calendar following the death of a much-loved husband, to raise funds for charity. But upturning preconceptions is a dangerous business and none of the women are prepared for the emotional and personal ramifications they will face, as the fabulous and funny calendar brings each woman unexpectedly into flower.
The true story of the Calendar Girls launched a global phenomenon: a million copycat calendars, a record-breaking movie, the fastest-selling stage play in British theatre history, as well as the musical, which coined the term ‘craughing’ – the act of crying and laughing at the same time.
Tim Firth, co-writer of the show, says: “Pre-pandemic I had been preparing the musical for a foreign production which was of course then postponed. When the skies cleared and a new production in the UK was proposed, I looked back and thought, ‘This is the version we ought to stage’. The story and songs, a little like the real world, had been thrown in the air and come back slightly different. What we had in our hands lay somewhere between the original play and the original musical and it seemed right for a time when sunlight, optimism and humour seemed more necessary than ever. Like the calendar itself, it seemed that something dark had created something unexpectedly bright.”
Gary Barlow, co-writer of the show, says: ‘I am delighted to be working on this new production of Calendar Girls and getting ready for the joy, the laughter and the nostalgia to take the stage again. It’s been 20 years this year since the film was released, and around 10 years since I first saw Tim’s play with my mum Marjorie. We’ve already had a fantastic time in the rehearsal room workshopping the show and weaving in new music, reworking songs and reimagining the book. We cannot wait to see the way these incredible leading ladies bring the story to bloom as we head out on tour later this year.”
This tour is proud to be supporting Blood Cancer UK, the charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, as well as offering information and support to blood cancer patients.
Calendar Girls the Musical is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tue 7 to Sat 11 November 2023. Book tickets online at leedsheritagetheatres.com or call the Box Office on 0113 243 0808
Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown.