The Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls (comedy) 2009

The Girls (musical) 2017

Play by Tim Firth. At first glance it should look like your classic WI calendar. Jams, cakes, sewing and all that. Except for one tiny thing... no, the ladies aren't 'naked', they're 'nude'. A group of extraordinary women, members of a very ordinary Yorkshire Women's Institute or WI, spark a global phenomenon by persuading one another to pose for a charity calendar with a difference! As interest snowballs, the Calendar Girls find themselves revealing more than they'd ever planned... This very British story, with a very British heart, The Girls is based on an uplifting and very inspiring true story that is both quirky, poignant and hilarious.

The stage play is adapted by Tim Firth from the 2003 screenplay he wrote with Juliette Towhidi. The musical version was again adapted by Tim Firth and featured music and lyrics by Gary Barlow.

Calendar Girls (comedy) 2009

Previewed 4 April 2009, Opened 13 April 2009, Closed 9 January 2010 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London

Tim Firth's stage play version of The Calendar Girls in London with an all-star cast

The ORIGINAL cast from Saturday 4 April 2009 to Saturday 25 July 2009 featured featured Elaine C Smith as 'Cora', Lynda Bellingham as 'Chris', Patricia Hodge as 'Annie', Sian Phillips as 'Jessie', Gaynor Faye as 'Celia', Julia Hills as 'Ruth', Brigit Forsyth as 'Marie', Joan Blackham as 'Brenda Hulse'/'Lady Cravenshire', Abby Francis as 'Elaine', and Carl Prekopp as 'Lawrence'/'Liam', with Gary Lilburn as 'John', and Gerard McDermott as 'Rod'.

Monday 27 July 2009, no performance due to cast change.

The SECOND cast from Tuesday 28 July 2009 to Saturday 31 October 2009 featured Jill Halfpenny as 'Cora', Anita Dobson as 'Chris', Jill Baker as 'Annie', June Brown as 'Jessie', Jerry Hall as 'Celia', Sara Crowe as 'Ruth', Richenda Carey as 'Marie', Delia Lindsay as 'Brenda Hulse'/'Lady Cravenshire', Gemma Atkinson as 'Elaine', and Jack Ryder as 'Lawrence'/'Liam', with Will Knightley as 'John', and Neil McCaul as 'Rod'.

Monday 2 November 2009, no performance due to cast change.

The THIRD cast from Tuesday 3 November 2009 to Saturday 9 January 2010 featured Julie Goodyear as 'Cora', Hannah Waterman a 'Cora' (from Tuesday 1 December 2009), Arabella Weir as 'Chris', Janie Dee as 'Annie', Rosalind Knight as 'Jessie', Kelly Brook as 'Celia', Debbie Chazen as 'Ruth', Helen Lederer as 'Marie', Jan Leeming as 'Brenda Hulse'/'Lady Cravenshire', Kathryn Rooney as 'Elaine', and Carl Prekopp as 'Lawrence'/'Liam', with Bill Champion as 'John', and Richard Attlee as 'Rod'. Unfortunately Julie Goodyear had to withdraw from this production due to ill heath and was replaced, from Tuesday 1 December 2009, by Hannah Waterman. Rob James Collier was originally announced to take over the double role of 'Lawrence’/'Liam', but was replaced by Carl Prekopp prior to the new cast taking over.

Directed for the stage by Hamish McColl with set designs by Robert Jones, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, costumes by Emma Williams, music by Steve Parry and sound by John Leonard.

Stage play by Tim Firth, based on the motion picture witten by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi.

Tim Firth's West End credits include the musical Our House (Cambridge Theatre 2002). Hamish McColl is half of The Right Size (the other half is Sean Foley), his West End credits include Ducktastic! (Noel Coward Theatre 2005) and The Play What I Wrote (Wyndham's Theatre 2001 and 2002).

"I didn't think I'd like this show... I was wrong... Firth's writing is blunt and deeply felt, sometimes soppy and spiked with juicy Yorkshire jokes: the language of a quality soap, which, like it or not, is part of the backbone of our cultural life. Lynda Bellingham, Patricia Hodge and Sian Phillips lead an energetic cast who know that sending yourself up is still part of the English character. There's a smell of success about this show." The Sunday Times

"You can buy Yorkshire lemon curd from a little stall with a banner saying Knapely WI in the foyer of the Noel Coward Theatre these days, which has got to be a first for a West End theatre. I'd guess that most of the audience for Calendar Girls can whip up a prize-winning jar of jam without so much as a recipe. But the raspberry preserve is shifting like proverbial hot cakes, with proceeds going to Leukaemia Research, still benefiting from this wonderful, heart-warming, true story of a gutsy gang whose calendar revealed spectacular new views of the Women's Institute. They dared to raise eyebrows in order to raise money for a new settee for visitors at their local hospital, where one of their husbands was treated for the lymphoma that killed him. Actresses of all shapes and ages, it seems, are queuing for the chance to bare all... Hamish McColl's production has sharpened up considerably since its transfer from Chichester last year. Tim Firth's play will never be a great one, but it's marvellous theatre, guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and come out singing Jerusalem." The Mail on Sunday

Calendar Girls in London at the Noel Coward Theatre previewed from 4 April 2009, opened on 13 April 2009 and closed on 9 January 2010.

The Girls (musical) 2017

Previewed 28 January 2017, Opened 21 February 2017, Closes 15 July 2017 at the Phoenix Theatre

Gary Barlow and Tim Firth's new musical comedy The Girls in London - based on the true story about the Women's Institute's Calendar Girls

The cast features Joanna Riding as 'Annie', Sophie-Louise Dann as 'Celia', Claire Moore as 'Chris', Michele Dotrice as 'Jessie' and Debbie Chazen as 'Ruth' with Marian McLoughlin as 'Marie' and Claire Machin as 'Cora' along with Joe Caffrey as 'Rod', Jeremy Clyde as 'Dennis', John Davitt as 'the Doctor', Soo Drouet as 'Brenda', James Gaddas as 'John', Jenny Gayner as 'Miss Wilson (Coffee)', Steve Giles as 'Lawrence', Maxwell Hutcheon as 'Colin', Shirley Jameson as 'Miss Wilson (Tea)', Judith Street as 'Lady Cravenshire', Josh Benson as 'Tommo', Ben Hunter as 'Danny' and Chloe May Jackson as 'Jenny'. Casting subject to change. Musical written by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow. Directed by Tim Firth with musical staging by Lizzi Gee, comedy staging by Jos Houben, designs by Robert Jones, lighting by Tim Lutkin and sound by Terry Jardine and Nick Lidster. This production comes to the West End following an acclaimed season at The Grand Theatre in Leeds.

Amongst the many thousands who have seen this new musical in London's West End are the family of John Baker, whose death from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1998 inspired the original calendar. His widow, Angela said: "It feels amazing to see the show on the West End stage. The one good thing is that John did know about the calendar, he shook his head and said, 'You'll never do it. You're all talk'. But you don't say that to a group of feisty, Yorkshire ladies. Without my friends rallying round and organising it we'd have never have done it. But, as they said, it gave me something to do. It's just been amazing. I think John is smiling." Afer seeing the show, John and Angela's son Matthew highlighted how "the music brings a whole new depth and level of emotion into the story. The journey reminds me of the highs and lows of what we, as a family, went through. People laugh and cry in the audience like we did. It was very sad, but as a lasting legacy to my dad, it's done a lot of positive things. My father would have a huge smile on his face about all of this."

When this production opened here at the Phoenix Theatre in February 2017, Ann Treneman in the Times noted that "this production has a lot going for it. The music is catchy and soulful, the lyrics often hilarious. The story is pure gold, as both the film and the play of the film, as it is called, have shown." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times commented how, "throughout, songwriter Gary Barlow and playwright Tim Firth draw us into characters' reflections through song. Their thoughtful use of music expands a story which is all about what we reveal and what we conceal and about celebrating the bodies in which we live and die... The emphasis is on the journey and on the personal misgivings overcome in the quest to face down the grim reaper... The women are richly brought to life by the fine ensemble in Firth's production... this joyous, cathartic musical looks set to see out many calendars." Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that "a cynic might say that it was always only a matter of time before we were treated to a musical version of Calendar Girls. But there is no covering up the fact that this show is a fresh and joyous attempt to reinvent the material rather some tired rehash with songs... This show clearly demonstrates how energised Tim Firth and Gary Barlow have been by the challenge of a creating a musical makeover and by the real opportunities it affords for contributing something new to a familiar tale." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said that "now we have the musical of the play of the movie of the calendar. But if you think this might be flogging a deceased equine, think again. The five years that Take That singer Gary Barlow and Calendar Girls' creator Tim Firth poured into the genesis of this musical was time well spent... The well-organised and cleverly choreographed photo session is the hilarious peek-a-boo climax to a resoundingly feel-good show." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "this show has been in try-out since early last year but despite much diligent polishing and the raw potency of the score - if you have heartstrings, prepare for them to be tugged - it's not quite up there with the celluloid original though it's a definite advance on the play... Not a fully rounded pleasure, then, but for all its obvious blemishes, it's still a beaut." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail held that, with "fruity comic acting, big songs, a judicious mix of schmaltz and Yorkshire salt: this show will have you wobbling one way or another. What a liberation it is to see sensible, life-loving women showing us their all... A couple of Gary Barlow’s songs, among them the opening Yorkshire and So I Had A Little Work Done, sound like instant classics. You’ll cry, both with laughter and unstoppable sentiment as the ladies cast aside their smalls in solidarity against that 'cheating, sly, conniving, silent bloody disease, cancer'. Bravo. Breast of British." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard thought that "it's certainly agreeable, but definitely from the cosy rather than groundbreaking school of theatre." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained "Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have collaborated on a delightful musical that is far superior both to the 2009 play and to the 2003 movie on which it was based. Rather than seem like a piece of cynical exploitation, the show suggests the story has now achieved its ideal form."

"Gary Barlow knows how to please a crowd, so it's no surprise that his new musical (co-written with pal Tim Firth) based on the now legendary story of the Women's Institute members who pioneered the naked charity calendar, is a joyous, heart-warming blast. Beginning as a celebration of life in a close-knit Yorkshire community, tragedy intrudes when the jokey, larger-than-life John, husband of Annie, is diagnosed with cancer. His death leads Annie's feisty best friend Chris to her Eureka moment - and soon the ladies are stripping off with... not exactly abandon, but certainly aplomb, in wonderfully witty scenes. Along with the tear-jerking moments, there are many laughs to be had, particularly at the antics of the town's disorderly teenagers. A cracking story, some great tunes, and a brilliant cast full of verve." The Sunday Mirror

"First there was the film Calendar Girls, then the play, and now comes the musical, with an oddly contracted title. The teary story of how a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women stripped oin order to raise money for the local hospital has become very familiar. Even The Archers got in on the act. Can Gary Barlow and Tim Firth's songs add anything new? Although the music isn't that memorable, the songs do add an emotional kick... They also allow the other women to reveal themselves in comic numbers such as So I've Had a Little Work Done... Manipulative at times, the show has such a good heart that any resistance is futile." The Sunday Times

"The Girls relates the famous, true story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire lasses who, inspired by the cancer death of a close friend's husband, bared almost all for a calendar in aid of leukaemia research. A comedy about cancer could be box-office death. But Barlow, who displays his knack for catchy but emotional songs, and co-creator Tim Firth know the pitfalls. The cast tackle a subject that used to be whispered about using tender, soaring ballads. When we get to the scene for which everyone is waiting, the audience have paid their emotional dues. This is where ladies of a certain age, but of every size, shape and character pose for photos that raised £5million. In a cathartic moment, and in the least pervy way possible, there is a life-enhancing thrill to seeing cast and characters shed clothes and inhibitions while keeping dignity fully intact. It says a lot about Barlow and Firth's judgment that it's not the show's flesh that leaves the strongest impression, but its warmth and wit." The London Metro

Joanna Riding's stage credits include Richard Eyre's revival of the musical The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2014; Kneehigh Theatre's production of the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011; Thea Sharrock revival of Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit at the Savoy Theatre in 2004; 'Eliza Doolittle' in Trevor Nunn's revival of the musical My Fair Lady Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2001; and the new musical The Witches of Eastwick at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2000; and Fiona Laird's revival of Joan Littlewood's Oh! What A Lovely War at the Bernie Spain Gardens and the Roundhouse in 1998.

Sophie-Louise Dann's London theatre credits include 'Paula' in Gurinder Chadha's production of the Howard Goodall and Charles Hart musical Bend It Like Beckham at the Phoenix Theatre in 2015; 'Diana DiVane' in Ian Talbot's production of Ken Ludwig's Lend Me A Tenor at the Gielgud Theatre in 2011; the title role in Carl Rosa Opera Company's production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe at the Gielgud Theatre in 2008; the ensemble in Gerard Alessandrini's musical spoof revue Forbidden Broadway at the Noel Coward Theatre in 1999; and 'Dulcie' in Maria Charles' revival of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend at the Player's Theatre in 1994.

Claire Moore's London stage credits include originating the role of 'Ellen' in the musical Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1989; and playing the role of 'Christine' at cerain performances in the original company of the musical The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in 1986.

Michele Dotrice's London West End credits include Christopher Luscombe's production of Jessica Swale's new play Nell Gwynn at the Apollo Theatre in 2016; Adrian Noble's revival of Oscar Wilde's comedy The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2015; and Christopher Luscombe's revival of JB Priestley's comedy When We Are Married at the Garrick Theatre in 2010.

Debbie Chazen's West End stage credits include Dan Patterson and Colin Swash's comedy The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2013;the third West End cast of Tim Firth's play Calendar Girls at the Noel Coward Theatre on 2009; and the role of 'The Wicked Stepmother' in Stephen Fry's pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic Theatre 2007.

Tim Firth's credits include the comedies Neville's Island revived at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2014; Sign of the Times at the Duchess Theatre in 2011; The Calendar Girls Noel Coward Theatre in 2009; and the 'Madness' musical Our House at the Cambridge Theatre in 2003.

The Girls in London at the Phoenix Theatre previewed from 28 January 2017, opened on 21 February 2017 and closed on 15 July 2017